1 Jan 2012

Tourist accused of starting fire in forest park

11:29 am on 1 January 2012

A tourist is under arrest in Chile accused of inadvertently starting a massive wildfire in the Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia.

Officials say more than 85 sq km (21,000 acres) has been destroyed.

Prosecutor Juan Melendez says the fire is believed to have resulted from an act of negligence.

Apart from saying the suspect is an Israeli, he gave no further information.

The BBC reports the fire started on Tuesday on a path by Lake Grey on the northwestern side of the park and spread quickly, fanned by high winds and fuelled by dry vegetation.

AFP reports the blaze more than quadrupled in size in less than 24 hours.

Higher humidity and a drop in the wind speed on Saturday helped slow the fire's advance.

Four hundred tourists were evacuated from the park on Thursday.

Mountains, glaciers, natural forests and lakes in the park are visited by more than 100,000 people each year.

Some 160 sq kms (40,000 acres) of the park were destroyed in 2005 in a camp fire started by a backpacker.