Majorca fires force 700 to flee for safety

The Spanish island's worst forest fire in nearly 15 years has been raging out of control since it began on Friday, with authorities stating it can only be extinguished from the air.

Majorca fires force 700 to flee for safety
The situation is not yet under control in the municipality Calvía, where fire squads have been unable to gain access on foot. Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP

Some 730 residents and tourists were evacuated from the Majorcan municipalities of Andratx, Estellencs and Calviá in the early hours of Saturday morning when the fires started spreading quickly along the wooded hills as a result of strong winds.

Although the island’s fire squad managed to control the fire around the municipality of Andraxt  on Sunday, the situation is not yet under control in Calvía, where fire squads have been unable to gain access on foot.

About 370 firefighters, members of Spain’s Civil Guard and the military emergency unit deployed 24 planes and helicopters to fight the flames on the west of the Mediterranean island.

So far, 1800 hectares in the Tramuntana mountain range, a World Heritage site, have been lost to the fires.

Spanish media sources are describing the blaze as the worst fire on the holiday island since the 1999.

Majorca's most devastating fire was in 1992, when almost 20 square kilometres were destroyed in the Arta area in the east of the island.

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Mallorca closes bars in crack down on hard-drinking tourists

Regional authorities on Spain's Balearic island of Mallorca on Wednesday ordered the immediate closure of bars on three streets popular with hard drinking tourists to limit the potential for coronavirus outbreaks.

Mallorca closes bars in crack down on hard-drinking tourists

Concerned many tourists are not respecting social distancing guidelines, authorities elected to close the venues on the Platja de Palma strip in the capital Palma and Magaluf, a favoured haunt with young booze-fuelled Britons.

One of Europe's hardest-hit nations with almost 30,000 deaths, Spain last month exited one of the globe's toughest virus lockdowns.

But as the summer season starts to take off authorities on the island feared matters could get out of hand unless they took tough action.

Earlier this week, Germany's health minister had expressed concern after hundreds of German tourists were seen partying on the island without masks or keeping a safe distance, fuelling fears of another coronavirus wave.

Local media on the Spanish island voiced outrage after video footage showed mainly German holidaymakers carousing outside bars and terraces on Friday evening, leading the German-language Mallorca Zeitung to note “it was as if no one had ever heard of the corona pandemic”.

The regional government last week had already announced hefty fines for those caught organising illegal parties or flouting rules on social distancing and face masks.

“We do not want uncivil tourists on our islands,” said regional tourism minister Iago Negueruela.

Negueruela warned that if the tourists simply took their boorish behaviour elsewhere then the crackdown would simply be widened.

Authorities in the Balearic Islands off Spain's eastern coast say they need to protect public health even as summer tourism, on which some 200,000 local jobs depend, begins to ramp up.