'A line of fire': Argentina blaze burns 500,000 hectares amid drought

BUENOS AIRES, Feb 14 (Reuters) - A devastating wildfire in the northern Argentine province of Corrientes has spread to cover more than 500,000 hectares, 6% of the region's total area, underscoring the impact of dry weather due to the Niña weather pattern in the South American nation.

A Civil Defense source told Reuters that firefighters were working to bring the fire under control, with houses and a hotel near the provincial capital located about 800 kilometers (497 miles) north of Buenos Aires being evacuated as a precaution.

"The fires are advancing by leaps and bounds and have already burned tens of thousands of hectares, turning the fields into a line of fire that is almost impossible to control," the Agricultural Entities Liaison Commission said in a statement.

Corrientes produces farm products including citrus fruits, rice, tobacco, yerba mate, cotton, livestock and forestry.

"There are almost 518,000 hectares on fire," Nicolas Pino, president of the Rural Society of Corrientes, told a local television channel, adding that the hope was for strong rains to douse the blaze.

"The fields will eventually recover, at some point it will rain heavily and this disaster will stop, but it really brings the problem to the forefront."

The National Meteorological Service is forecasting scant rain for the next few days with only 5-10 millimeters expected.

Argentina is in the midst of a second consecutive La Niña, a weather event that typically brings less rainfall to its central agricultural regions, which are key to the country's exports and foreign currency revenues.

Reporting by Walter Bianchi; Additional reporting by Maximilian Heath; Editing by Alistair Bell

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