Arsonists blamed for Spanish wildfires
Arsonists were blamed Tuesday for a spate of wildfires along Spain's eastern coast near the popular resort of Benidorm that have forced the evacuation of 1,400 people.
Hundreds of firefighters backed by water-dropping aircraft were battling the largest of several fires which began on Sunday near the resort of Javea, up the coast from Benidorm on Spain’s Costa Blanca.
Another blaze was underway Tuesday morning near the mountain town of Bolulla, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Javea, while Spanish emergency services faced a third one on the Mediterranean island of Menorca.
Most of Spain has faced an “extreme risk” of wildfires since Sunday due to a heatwave, with temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in some parts.
“There is one or several arsonists,” Jose Maria Angel Batalla, an emergency services chief responsible for the Costa Blanca area, told radio Cope, referring to the fire near Javea.
Gasoline cans have been found and there were “three or four” outbreaks of fire on Sunday just a few hours before the sun set, giving firefighters little time to act before visibility dropped, he added.
The main blaze roared through scrubland along the coastline near residential areas around Javea, sending thick plumes of grey smoke into the air.
It has razed more than 800 hectares (1,900 acres) of land, according to the regional government, and has charred several buildings in the area which is popular with British and German holidaymakers.
A wall of flames could be seen moving towards a row of white-washed villas in images broadcast on Spanish television.
Officials have evacuated around 1,400 people, including tourists, with many spending the night on cots in local schools or at local residents’ homes.
Many said they fled with just the clothes they were wearing.
“We heard people shouting and telling us to flee and I got a pain in my chest from the shrieks,” holidaymaker Isabel Segura Valencia told local daily newspaper Las Provincias at a Red Cross shelter set up in a high school.
– ‘Evolving favourably’ –
Firefighters said intense heat, low humidity levels and strong winds which changed direction fuelled the fire on the Costa Blanca but they were starting to gain the upper hand.
“The fire is evolving favourably,” tweeted Juan Carlos Moragues who is responsible for security in the region.
The wildfire on the Mediterranean island of Menorca on Spain’s Balearic Islands broke out on Monday near the towns of Cala Moli, Na Macaret and Addaia, a local emergency services official said.
Around 600 people were either evacuated, or ordered to stay in their home or hotels because of the blaze, which firefighters said remained active but was now “stable”.
Among those who were ordered to remain indoors were the guests of the 180-room Marina Parc hotel at Arenal d’en Castell.
“Everything is fine and the situation is under control,” a hotel receptionist told AFP. Most of the guests were British tourists, the receptionist added.
The fire has so far destroyed around 50 hectares of land but it is one of the largest blazes in recent years in Menorca, a mostly rural island with rolling fields and wooded ravines.