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Chile Charges Israeli Tourist in Connection With Patagonia Fire

Jan. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Chilean authorities filed charges against an Israeli tourist in connection with a blaze that has destroyed thousands of hectares in the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, a main tourist attraction.

More than 550 government and military personnel from Chile and Argentina and several aircraft were deployed to combat the fire that is entering its sixth day, according to the website of Chile’s emergency agency, Onemi. Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter said more than 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) have been consumed.

Rotem Singer, a 23-year-old Israeli tourist, was charged yesterday with starting the fire, said Carolina Delard, a spokeswoman for the office of prosecutor in the city of Puerto Natales, in a telephone interview. Singer was released and ordered to remain in the region for the next three months as authorities conduct an investigation.

The 180,000-hectare park in Chile’s Patagonia region is famous for its vertical granite peaks and is home to Andean condors, pumas and endangered huemul deer.

Chile has declared a so-called state of catastrophe in the province. The government is interviewing and collecting data from the 400 tourists who were evacuated from the park.

In 2005, a Czech tourist started a fire in the same park when his camping stove fell over. He was arrested and deported. Firefighters took about 30 days to control that blaze, Hinzpeter said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eduardo Thomson in Santiago at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sylvia Wier at

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