New urban development planned for Valparaiso after fire

Santiago, April 16 (IANS/EFE) Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said Tuesday that she will order a master plan prepared to reorganise Valparaiso’s urban design after the port city was devastated by a fire that left at least 15 people dead and 2,500 homes destroyed.

“What we’ll do now is create a master plan to imagine the city in the best and worthiest way possible, with the understanding that Valparaiso has its own identity,” the president said in an interview with Radio Cooperativa.

The blaze in Valparaiso is “a tremendous tragedy”, but at the same time is an opportunity “to do things well” in this port city, which has suffered from “growth without planning”, Bachelet said.

Valparaiso, declared a World Heritage Site by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in 2003, is surrounded by 42 hills on which houses have been built, some that are almost hanging off the peaks.

The hills hit hardest by the fire that broke out last Saturday, are in the highest part of the city and are hard to reach because of the unpaved roads and ravines used as city dumps.

Bachelet said that besides urban planning, the government will come to the aid of families that have lost their homes.

She also said that in the coming days she will appoint a presidential delegate to head Valparaiso’s reconstruction process in the northern districts of Arica and Tarapaca, affected by a magnitude-8.2 earthquake April 1 that left six people dead and widespread material damage.

–IANS/EFE

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