March 13, 2017 / 8:16 PM / in 7 months

Residents inspect damage after wildfires reach Chile coast resort

A helicopter makes a water drop to prevent a wildfire from spreading to homes in Vina del Mar. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chileans began to return to their homes in the beach resort of Vina del Mar on Monday after wildfires over the weekend reached the city’s suburbs, burning houses and knocking out power.

On Sunday, a forest fire prompted authorities to evacuate thousands of residents from Vina del Mar on central Chile’s Pacific coast, as firefighters and some residents who stayed behind worked frantically to control the flames.

There were no deaths reported, though 280,000 households lost power, according to Chile’s emergency service, and 16 houses were burnt down.

Central Chile has been undergoing a severe drought in recent years and record high temperatures in the past few months have fanned a number of destructive fires.

Tourist attraction Vina del Mar and the adjoining port town of Valparaiso, with gritty residential areas and informal housing built high up their steep hills, are often victims of wildfires. In January, at least 100 homes were burnt in the area.

Unprecedented forest fires have occurred in other parts of central Chile during the southern hemisphere summer, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to forest plantations and rural infrastructure and completely destroying a small town.

Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Bill Rigby

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