The following story was published in todays local paper, its titled,The Heartbreak of Valparaiso, I rather think of it as Ana,s Story.
To refresh the readers mind, my wife Ana was born in Valparaiso Chile,we married in the beautiful harbour port of Valparaiso when I spent a few months over there back in 2009.
Chile is renowned for its earthquakes, however raging fires are not uncommon.
The grand city of Valparaiso is built on the the coast and was a major shipping route in the 18th century, its harbour being dotted with three masted schooners from many nations.
The hills surrounding the port are dotted with many colourful homes that have developed a style and culture of their own.
I give you Ana,s story, or as published, The Heartbreak of Valparaiso.
CHILEAN-born national and now Mildura resident Ana Cristina Corvalyn Lyng Felton has told some heart-breaking stories of repeated natural disasters in her birth city of Valparaiso in the wake of the latest fire that has claimed at least 15 lives and destroyed more than 2000 homes.
Ana said that because of the way most of hilly Valpariaso has been settled, squatter-style, fire had always been its biggest threat, although it had also been hit by earthquakes.
She still has family there, and thankfully they are out of harm’s way, but the fire that has been raging out of control this week has claimed many lives, left 8000 people homeless and continues to threaten much of this Pacific Ocean seaport of 255,000, just 70 kilometres from the capital Santiago.
Ana described this week’s fire as the worst in recent history, but the worst ever was in 1953, when a massive explosion and fire claimed the lives of 32 volunteer firemen, as well as other civilian life.
Ana, 64, married in 1971 and left Valparaiso in 1973, before the military coup, but , but has been back several times to visit family and friends, with her most recent trip being last year, when she had an extended three-month holiday.
If anything, she says, the problem of haphazard prefabricated illegal housing on the 42 hills of the city is getting worse, putting much of the city under threat. The problem is exacerbated by the wooden and corrugated iron shacks, lack of water or sewer connections, no fire hydrants and streets too narrow for emergency vehicles.
Chile’s armed services have been called in to help, as helicopters and fixed wing aircraft continue to dump millions of litres of water on the firefront and smouldering ruins of whole neighbourhoods.
Ana said the problem is also made worse because of the strong gusty winds which are a regular weather feature of Valparaiso. Firefighters have already described the raging inferno in some neighbourhoods as creating their own winds, further adding to the problem. Experts have estimated it could take up to three weeks to bring the fires under control.
The city is under military rule as 5000 firefighters, police, forest rangers, soldiers, sailors and civil defence workers joined forces to fight the fires. All vehicles with the exception of emergency vehicles have been banned from streets leading to the worst-affected areas of this world heritage-listed region.
Ana, now married to Mildura’s Ian Felton and a Mildura resident for the past four years, said she has been keeping in touch with family and friends via social media.
“Thankfully, they are well away from the danger areas, but the situation for many people is heartbreaking,” she said. “These people have nowhere else to go. Up in the hills was the only place they could afford to build, they live in the most basic shanties in primitive conditions with lack of proper facilities, but it’s the only life they know.”
Born and raised in Valparaiso, Ana married and left Chile with her Canadian-born husband just 10 days before the 1973 coup that brought the leader of the military junta, Augusto Pinochet, to power. She lived in Canada until 1992, helping her husband build up a successful construction business in California and Canada before they divorced.
Ana, by now fluent in Spanish, French, Italian and English – and with a good grasp of Porteguse, took the opportunity to travel the world, spending time in North and South America, Eusope, Africa, the Caribbean, Thailand and Malaysia before meeting Ian through a close friend via the social media, leading to Ian’s first visit to Chile in 2009, and their subsequent wedding. Ian spent almost four months in Valparaiso, and has many fond memories of the colourful city, and its Bohemian-style ‘army’ of artists, painters and writers.
They have since made their home in Mildura, travel to some interesting and exciting in Victoria and interstate, but Ana said that should anything happen to Ian she would have no hesitation in packing up and returning to her country of birth.
In the meantime she will continue hoping and praying for the safety of the residents of Valparaiso in the wake of yet another modern-day natural disaster.