Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO today offered the Organization's assistance in repairing damage caused by the fire that destroyed part of the historical city centre of Valparaiso, Chile, killing several people, on 3 February.
"Firstly, I wish to extend my sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this tragedy," the Director-General said. He also announced that "UNESCO stands ready to extend emergency assistance to the appropriate Chilean authorities in their effort to repair the damage caused to the historic centre of Valparaiso. We are in touch with the authorities and will do all we can to help them preserve this outstanding landmark. I have fond memories of my visit to Valparaiso, in the company of its mayor, before the city was inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2003. I remember the city as a place of great beauty, bearing rich testimony to the region's cultural, economic and social history."
A mission of UNESCO's World Heritage Centre will visit Valparaiso in early March and will discuss restoration plans with the local authorities. The fire in the World Heritage site is reported to have been caused by a gas explosion in the historic centre of the colonial city, Chile's main sea port. Several buildings are reported to have collapsed or to have been severely damaged due to the fire. The remarkable late 19th century building, the Edificio Subercaseaux, a timber and brick construction in the Neo Classical style, was burned to the ground.