Over 500 people evacuated in Spanish wildfire

28th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

New flare-ups of the blaze happening simultaneously at three different places have led officials to suspect the fire was deliberately set.

Madrid – A wildfire raging in eastern Spain forced the evacuation of over 500 people due to the threat from the approaching flames and smoke, local officials said Monday.

More than 400 firefighters backed by 13 helicopters and four planes have brought the blaze near the town of Las Hurdes under control on Sunday but it flared up in the early hours of Monday due to strong winds, the regional government of Extremadura said in a statement.

Local officials believe the fire, which had so far ravaged over 500 hectares (1,200 acres) of land, was deliberately set.

"It is not possible that new flare-ups of the fire arise at the same time at three different places, nobody can understand it," said the regional government chief of Extremadura, Guillermo Fernandez Vara.

Elsewhere in Spain firefighters had gained the upper hand against other major blazes but 24 Spanish provinces remained on alert for wildfires on Monday because of scorching temperatures.

Spain's Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said 90 percent of the country was on "maximum alert" for wildfires because of tinder-dry conditions.

"We are facing a bad day because of the heat and wind," he told reporters.

The national weather office issued an "orange" alert, its second-highest level, for eight Spanish provinces due to scorching temperatures. The risk of wildfires was seen as especially high in the southern Andalusia region where the mercury was forecast to soar above 41 degrees Celsius.

Wildfires have devastated over 20,000 hectares of land, killed six firefighters and gutted dozens of homes over the past week in Spain.

In the northeastern region of Aragon, the worst affected region with more than 11,700 hectares lost to flames over the past week, three fires were under control and firefighters were on the verge of bringing the other three which were burning also under control, a regional government spokesman said.

AFP / Expatica

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