Fire in Bolivian town destroys hundreds of homes, kills two 'Guayaros'

News and Press Release
Originally published
By PETE McFARREN, Associated Press Writer

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) Fires fueled by 105 kph (65 mph) winds destroyed several hundred homes and a local hospital Saturday, killing at least two people in an eastern farming town, town officials said.

Lack of rains in the tropical Bolivian lowlands contributed to the fire in Ascencion de Guarayos. On Saturday, local officials said the town's water pumps had been destroyed, cutting off water to some area residents. The lack of water also hampered efforts to contain the flames.

Local radio reports said President Hugo Banzer asked U.S Ambassador Donna Hrinak to deploy anti-drug helicopters and planes to help fight the blaze and fly in emergency supplies to the town.

Ascencion de Guarayos, (852.77 kilometers) (530 miles) east of La Paz, is a farming and ranching community of 8,000 people where many of the poor live in palm leaf huts.

Radio reports from the town said the fire started at a sawmill. Planes carrying rescue personnel were unable to land due to the heavy smoke and strong winds. Supplies and fire fighting equipment had to be driven from Santa Cruz, a trip that takes six hours.

Copyright (c) 1999 The Associated Press
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 08/14/1999 20:55:47