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HEATWAVE

IN PICS: Wildfire rages across Tarragona as Spain gripped by record-breaking heatwave

A forest fire in Spain raged out of control on Thursday amid a Europe-wide heatwave, devouring land despite the efforts of hundreds of firefighters who worked through the night, local authorities said.

IN PICS: Wildfire rages across Tarragona as Spain gripped by record-breaking heatwave
Handout showing wildfire in Tarragona region. Photo: BOMBERS GENERALITAT CATALUNYA

The blaze broke out on Wednesday afternoon in Torre del Espanol in the northeastern region of Catalonia and by Thursday it had destroyed more than 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres), the region's interior minister Miquel Buch said.   

“The difficulties are such that we can't talk about a fire that is under control or in the extinction phase, but rather that we're at a moment when the blaze is getting bigger,” he told Catalan radio.

In a statement, Catalonia's regional government warned the fire could eventually devour 20,000 hectares in what presented an “extreme risk.”  

 The fire spread quickly due to strong winds and soaring temperatures.   Buch said it may have been caused by “an accumulation of manure in a farm that generated enough heat to explode and generate sparks.” 

 

“We haven't faced a fire of this seriousness in 20 years,” he said in a Twitter message.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wrote on Twitter that he was “concerned about the news coming from Tarragona and the families which have been evacuated”. 

 

So far, some 30 people have been evacuated from their homes, the regional government said, as water-dropping aircraft assist firefighters on the ground.

The fire comes as much of Europe was gripped by a record-breaking heatwave.

Meteorologists blame a blast of hot air from northern Africa for the scorching temperatures early in the European summer, which could send thermometers above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in France, Spain and Greece on Thursday and Friday.

 

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WEATHER

Firefighters urge public to avoid Madrid bathing spot after blaze

People have been asked to stay away from the popular San Juan reservoir after a wildfire broke out nearby on Saturday afternoon.

Firefighters urge public to avoid Madrid bathing spot after blaze
Firefighters battle the blaze that broke out near the San Juan reservoir near Madrid on Saturday, July 31st, 2021. (Photo from 112 Comunidad Madrid)

Firefighters said Sunday they had managed to stabilise the blaze overnight but local authorities urged people to stay away from the reservoir, a popular bathing spot for residents of the Spanish capital.

Dozens of firefighters backed by water-dropping aircraft have been battling the wildfire that broke out on Saturday afternoon near the reservoir, which is about 70 kilometres (40 miles) east of Madrid.

The fire started in the nudist beach area, but strong winds caused it to spread rapidly, Spanish daily El Mundo reported.

The cause of the fire, which scorched an area of 50 hectares, remained unknown, but the Madrid area emergency services said in a tweet that forest rangers had started investigations.

The rangers also confirmed that the vegetation damaged was scrubland and some stone pine trees.

In Italy, meanwhile, more than 800 flare-ups were recorded this weekend, mainly in the south, according to Italy’s fire brigade, as fires continued to rage across parts of southern Europe.

Fires have also been ravaging other parts of southern Europe, including Greece and tourist hotspots in southern Turkey, where wildfires have claimed eight lives.

Fanned by soaring temperatures, strong winds and climate change — which experts say increases both the frequency and intensity of such blazes — this year’s fire season has been significantly more destructive than the previous average, EU data shows.

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