Wild­fire in western Spain forces fur­ther evac­u­a­tions

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

A wild­fire that of­fi­cials sus­pect was started de­lib­er­ately forced the evac­u­a­tion of a third town in western Spain on Satur­day, of­fi­cials said.

Fire­fight­ers evac­u­ated about 1,000 peo­ple from the town of Hoyos in the early hours of Satur­day, a day af­ter another 1,400 peo­ple were or­dered to leave their homes and camp­sites in two other nearby towns.

“The wind fanned the flames and caused the fire to spread, forc­ing the evac­u­a­tion of Hoyos due to the prox­im­ity of the blaze and es­pe­cially the smoke,” lo­cal Red Cross of­fi­cial Jose Lopez San­tana told Span­ish public ra­dio.

The blaze, which broke out in the Sierra de Gata moun­tain range amid scorch­ing tem­per­a­tures on Thurs­day, has burned over 6,000 hectares of land.

About 300 fire­fight­ers and other emer­gency crew mem­bers worked overnight to bat­tle the blaze, the gov­ern­ment of the Ex­tremadura re­gion said in a state­ment.

Fire­fight­ers took res­i­dents of a re­tire­ment home in Hoyos to a hos­pi­tal in the nearby town of Co­ria, the state­ment added.

“For fam­i­lies it is very hard not be­ing able to re­main at home but sav­ing lives must be our top pri­or­ity,” the head of the re­gional gov­ern­ment, Guillermo Fer­nan­dez Vara, told re­porters.

The cause of the fire was still un­de­ter­mined but “ev­ery­thing seems to in­di­cate” that ar­son was to blame, he added.

“When a fire is con­cen­trated in a very spe­cific area it is be­cause the hand of man must have played some kind of a role, be­cause it is not hot­ter and drier in the Sierra de Gata than in the rest of Ex­tremadura,” he said.

Six roads in the Sierra de Gata moun­tain range were closed be­cause of the fire.

Winds were ex­pected to slow through­out the day, help­ing fire­fight­ers to bring the blaze un­der con­trol.

About 300 fire­fight­ers were bat­tling four other wild­fires burn­ing in the south­east­ern re­gion of Mur­cia.

The fires, which were all started on Thurs­day by light­ning strikes, have so far burned more than 700 hectares of land, lo­cal of­fi­cials said.

A fifth fire broke out due to a light­ning strike on Fri­day af­ter­noon but was quickly put out, lo­cal of­fi­cials said.

The risk of wild­fires was high in western Spain and large parts of the coun­try’s Mediter­ranean coast on Satur­day be­cause of high tem­per­a­tures and low air hu­mid­ity lev­els, ac­cord­ing to na­tional weather agency AEMET.

Wild­fires have de­stroyed more than 54,000 hectares of agri­cul­tural and for­est land in Spain this year, ex­ceed­ing the amount burned dur­ing the last two years com­bined, ac­cord­ing to the agri­cul­ture min­istry.

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