Chilean authorities said they had arrested 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 have been deployed to combat the fire that has entered its fifth 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.
A 24-hour window of milder weather may allow the government to increase efforts to stop the fire after strong winds had fanned the blaze, Hinzpeter said. Onemi, the nation’s emergency agency, said 115 people were fighting the fire on Dec. 29.
“The milder weather will last approximately 24 hours and we expect stronger winds in the next two days,” Hinzpeter said in statements broadcast by CNN Chile. “We hope to control today at least three of the six areas where the fire is concentrated in the park.”
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.
Roter Singer, a 23-year-old Israeli tourist, was arrested as a suspect in starting the fire and will be charged later today, Santiago-based newspaper La Tercera reported on its website, citing police.
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 today.