A Chilean pastor has blamed forest fires near the city of Valparaíso on the discussion of a bill which would allow for same-sex civil unions.

Pastor Javier Soto made the comments on his Facebook page, posting photos of the blaze and labelling it a ‘punishment’ from God over the bill.

According to the Washington Blade, he said: “Chile is being punished.

“The order is: Put an end to the civil unions bill.

“This will continue if the opposite is done.”

Juan Pablo Fuentealba Álvarez of the Chilean It Gets Better Foundation, told the Blade: “It is evident that the forest fires in the Valparaíso Region of Chile, as with any other natural catastrophe, have nothing to do with the legalization of marriage between people of the same sex.

“We call for an end to hate, which only leads to more discrimination and prejudices. We invite you to open our mind and our heart towards an inclusive society that celebrates diversity.

“Evangelical pastor Javier Soto confuses religious issues with civil and social matters, which we understand can exist in perfect harmony, provided they respect each other.”

The fires, which broke out in the city on Saturday, have so far killed 12 people, and forced more than 10,000 to flee their homes.

A bill allowing for same-sex civil unions is currently progressing through the Chilean Senate, and recently re-elected President Michelle Bachelet has said that marriage equality is a priority issue.