Spain reports first civilian death in wildfires

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The body of a man was found in a burned-out house near the town of Arenas de San Pedro.

Madrid – A man died in a wildfire Tuesday when flames swept through a house in western Spain, the first civilian death in blazes that also claimed the lives of six Spanish firefighters last week, authorities said.

They said the fires that erupted Tuesday in part of the Castilla y Leon region appeared to have been deliberately started.

The body of the unidentified man was found in the house that was destroyed by fires near the town of Arenas de San Pedro, about 120 kilometres (70 miles) west of Madrid, regional authorities said, adding that a woman was also missing in the fire.

More than 100 firefighters backed by 15 helicopters and seven water-dropping planes were battling the flames, which have destroyed some 300 hectares (740 acres).

The head of the regional department of the environment, Maria Jesus Ruiz, told a news conference the fire broke out at three separate points, and was therefore "clearly intentional".

The main concern now for authorities is "to ensure the safety of people in the area".

A number of people have been evacuated from the area, including monks at a monastery and 40 children at a summer camp.

Also Tuesday, three soldiers battling a wildfire near the southwestern town of Caceres were injured in a road accident, said an AFP photographer who was involved the collision but was unhurt.

Elsewhere in the country, firefighters late Tuesday brought under control a blaze in the northeastern region of Aragon, although more than 11,700 hectares have been lost to the flames, the regional government said.

It was the last of several blazes in the region to be tamed.

A wildfire near the western town of Las Hurdes which forced the evacuation of over 500 people was also brought under control, a spokesman for the regional government of Extremadura said.

More than 500 firefighters were working to completely extinguish the blaze which had appeared to be under control on Sunday but flared up again in the early hours of Monday due to strong winds which fanned the flames.

The area residents who were evacuated were allowed to return to their homes later on Monday after the risk from the flames and smoke abated.

A fire near the Horta de Sant Joan in northeastern Spain which claimed the lives of five firefighters last week was completely extinguished. Another firefighter died battling a fire in Aragon last week.

With temperatures forecast to hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in many parts of Spain on Tuesday, the interior ministry maintained three-quarters of Spain on "maximum" alert for wildfires.

In 2005, Spain lost 155,000 hectares to fire and another 188,000 hectares in 2006 but was spared major wildfire damage in the past two years, the exception being the Canary Islands in the Atlantic which suffered major blazes in 2007.

AFP / Expatica

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