Mildura Weekly : Friday April 18 2014 Vol 8 No 24
www.milduraweekly.com.au 6 Mildura Weekly – 18/04/14 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 Valpara- iso 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 home- less 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 his- tory, but the worst ever was in 1953, when a massive explo- sion 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 has been back several times to visit family and friends, with her most recent trip being last year, when she had an extend- ed three-month holiday. If anything, she says, the problem of haphazard prefab- ricated 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 con- nections, no fire hydrants and streets too narrow for emer- gency vehicles. Chile’s armed services have been called in to help, as helicopters and fixed wing aircraft continue to dump mil- lions of litres of water on the firefront and smouldering ru- ins 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 neighbour- hoods as creating their own winds, further adding to the problem. Experts have esti- mated it could take up to three weeks to bring the fires under control. The city is under military rule as 5000 firefighters, po- lice, forest rangers, soldiers, sailors and civil defence work- ers join forces to fight the fires. All vehicles, with the excep- tion of emergency vehicles have been banned from streets leading to the worst-affected areas of this world heritage- listed region. Ana, now married to Mil- dura’s Ian Felton and a Mil- dura resident for the past four years, said she has been keep- ing 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 no- where else to go. Up in the hills was the only place they could afford to build, they live in basic conditions with lack of proper, or limited, facili- ties, but it’s the only life they know.” Born and raised in Val- paraiso, 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 hus- band build up a successful construction business in Cali- fornia and Canada before they divorced. Ana, by now fluent in Spanish, French, Italian and English - and with a good grasp of Portugese, took the op- portunity to travel the world, spending time in North and South America, Europe, 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 colour- ful city, and its Bohemian- style ‘army’ of artists, painters and writers. They have since made their home in Mildura, travel to some interesting and excit- ing in Victoria and interstate, but Ana said that should any- thing happen to Ian she would have no hesitation in packing up and returning to her coun- try 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 natu- ral disaster. Home is where the heart is, and one Mildura resident is certainly sharing the sorrow of fellow citizens from her native Chile as its major seaport – the city of her birth – is under threat from one of the biggest fires in the nation’s history. ALAN ERSKINE reports on... The heartbreak of Valparaiso • Ana with son George Sierra Corvalyn and grandson Renato Sierra Colipi on one of her visits back home to Chile. 2Cool4School is an alternative option for teenagers or adults who have left school. It helps to improve your skills in writing, numeracy and literacy with a coach as your mentor/assessor. a coach as your mentor/assessor. a coach as your mentor/assessor 2Cool4School seeks to help each person believe more in themselves, person believe more in themselves, person believe mor achieve their personal goals in work, education and life. 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