Wildfires ravage eastern Spain

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Hundreds of firefighters Tuesday battled several wildfires that have ravaged some 2,500 hectares of land in Spain's eastern Valencia region, regional authorities said.

Spain's Defence Minister Carme Chacon, who visited the region, described one of the fires, around the towns of Ontinyent and Bocairent, as "one of the fiercest" anywhere in the country so far this year.

That blaze has destroyed some 1,900 hectares, the interior minister of the Valencia regional government, Serafin Castellano, told a news conference.

It is one of several wildfires that broke out overnight in the Valencia region and have destroyed a total of 2,457 hectares (6,068 acres), much of it forest and brushland, he said.

At least three of the fires are suspected to have been deliberately set, Castellano said.

He declined to say how many people had been evacuated, but Spanish public television reported some 1,200 people were asked to leave their homes as a precautionary measure.

Hundreds of firefighters backed by water-dropping planes and helicopters have been battling the blazes since early Tuesday.

Fires in the northwestern region of Galicia destroyed thousands of hectares of land in recent weeks. One of those caused the deaths of two firemen last month.

A fire on the Spanish Mediterranean resort island of Ibiza last month forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 partygoers and scorched hundreds of hectares.

© 2010 AFP

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