Forest fire tragedy claims first political casualty
21 July 2005, GUADALAJARA — The environment minister in the regional government of Castilla-La Mancha has resigned over the handling of the forest fire in which 11 volunteer firefighters died.
21 July 2005
GUADALAJARA — The environment minister in the regional government of Castilla-La Mancha has resigned over the handling of the forest fire in which 11 volunteer firefighters died.
Rosario Arevalo presented her resignation to the head of the province's government and it has been accepted.
She was directly responsible for the handling of the fire which killed 11 volunteers on Sunday when a forest fire got out of control in the central province of Castilla-La Mancha.
Arevalo's version of events was directly contradictory to the spokesman for the regional government, Maximo Diaz Cano.
She claimed the administration asked for help in tackling the blaze from central government earlier than the official line.
The regional government has been fiercely criticised for failing to act quickly enough.
Earlier, Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced a series of harsh penalties against those who run the risk of starting forest fires.
Zapatero also said the Socialist government will also reinforce coordination between central and regional government in tackling these blazes.
The Spanish premier added more help would be given to local fire services who combat forest fires and material compensation would be paid to those whose livelihoods had been wrecked by such blazes.
He also wanted to express his condolences to the families of the 11 volunteer firefighters who lost their lives carrying out "such an important job".
The fire, which began in pine woodland at Cueva de los Casares in Guadalajara, north of Madrid, on Saturday, has destroyed up to 12,000 hectares.
Members of the public have criticised the authorities' handling of the fire.
One woman told Spanish radio by phone that the emergency services had been slow to react.
"It could have been stopped yesterday, and today it's too late."
Another woman accused the authorities of failing to take the threat seriously enough.
"They told us we weren't in a danger area and that we should get into bed and close the windows - when there was such thick smoke you couldn't even breathe."
Police say the forest fire was started by a barbecue and fanned by blustery winds in very dry conditions.
The eleven firefighters died after becoming encircled following a sudden change in wind direction, officials said.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news