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Firefighters make inroads against Chile wildfire
by Staff Writers
Santiago (AFP) Jan 1, 2012

Firefighters in Chile made inroads Sunday in their battle against a massive wildfire that has consumed 30,000 acres (12,500 hectares) of a national park that is one of the jewels of Patagonia, officials said Sunday.

Vicente Nunez, Chile's top emergency officials said Sunday that the five-day old inferno has failed to spread over the past 10 hours -- a hopeful sign that efforts to contain it appeared to be having success.

Nunez added that if the 600 fire fighters, soldiers and park rangers battling the blaze continue to make progress, the blaze could be brought under control "within the coming hours or days."

High winds have fanned the fire, thwarting an international effort that will soon be comprised of specialist fire-fighting teams from Uruguay and neighboring Argentina, as well as Chilean soldiers, planes and helicopters.

Torres del Paine National Park is a 2,400-square-kilometer (927-square-mile) paradise of granite-peaked mountains, natural Andean forests, Patagonian steppe and turquoise lakes deep in southern Chile.

Investigators arrested and later freed on bond an Israeli tourist they believe inadvertently set off the massive blaze on Tuesday by failing to properly extinguish a roll of toilet paper he had been burning.

The Israeli, 23-year-old Roten Singer, denies starting the fire and his family accuses the Chilean authorities of making him a scapegoat for the disaster. Singer faces up to 60 days in jail and a fine if found guilty.

President Sebastian Pinera has said the park, visited annually by 100,000 tourists, will remain shut throughout January.

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Warmest New Year's Eve in Paris since 1883
Paris (AFP) Jan 1, 2012 - Revelling Parisians enjoyed the warmest New Year's Eve in Paris since 1883 with temperatures hitting 12.3 degrees Celsius (54.1 degrees Fahrenheit), weather service Meteo France said on Sunday.

"In Paris, the temperature did not go below 12.3 degrees last night, while the previous record for a New Year's Eve dates from 1883," Meteo France forecaster Dominique Raspaud told AFP.

Temperatures in Paris remained above normal on Sunday, hitting 14.3 degrees Celsius (57.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in the afternoon, against an average January temperature of 7.0 degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit).

The warm weather came after France in 2011 saw its hottest year since the start of the 20th century, with average national temperatures 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than the norm.


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Israeli tourist held over massive Chile wildfire
Santiago (AFP) Dec 31, 2011
Chilean investigators Saturday arrested and later freed on bond an Israeli tourist they believe inadvertently set off a massive wildfire that has ravaged a wide swath of pristine forest in Patagonia. High winds for days fanned a blaze that began Tuesday at the Torres del Paine National Park, a 2,400-square-kilometer (927-square-mile) paradise of mountains, forests and lakes in deep southern ... read more

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