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MAP: Where are wildfires raging in Spain?

UPDATE: Forest fires continue to rage across Spain with new annual records for hectare destruction already beaten, although some of the worst blazes are now under control. Here is where the wildfires are currently causing the most damage.

MAP: Where are wildfires raging in Spain?
Firefighters try to extinguish a wildfire next to the village of Tabara, near Zamora, northern Spain, on July 18, 2022. - Emergency services battled several wildfires as Spain remained in the grip of an exceptional heatwave that has seen temperatures reach 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Farenheit). (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP)

Spain is currently experiencing wildfires four times more destructive than the average for early July from 2006 to 2021.  

On July 18th, there were 33 active fires across mainland Spain as the country struggled with a nine-day heatwave that has killed more than 500 people due to heat-related causes.

By Thursday, this number had dropped as firefighters managed to gain an upper hand on some of the blazes

Around 80,000 hectares of land have been destroyed in the past week and Spain have already broken annual records in terms of hectares destroyed, with another grim milestone for the highest number of wildfires in a single year set to follow, even though it’s still only July.

Neighbouring France and Portugal are also enduring equally rampant blazes as Europe endures some of the highest summer temperatures in recent memory.

The Spanish regions of Andalusia, Galicia, Castilla y León, La Rioja, Aragón and Extremadura are bearing the brunt of the wildfires so far, even though there are blazes in practically all other autonomous communities in mainland Spain.

Although the scorching temperatures and dryness are contributing to the probability of forest fires across the country, authorities believe that in the vast majority of cases the blazes are being caused by human intervention, whether intentional or due to neglectful behaviour.

The map below, courtesy of Nasa, shows the active wildfires in Spain on Thursday July 21st. For live updates, click here.   

The most destructive forest fires in Spain in recent days have been and/or continue to be in:

  • Losacio in Zamora (Northwest Spain). Two people have died (a firefighter and a shepherd), several have been injured and 6,000 have been forced to leave their homes in 32 different municipalities. The fire is still active and more than 10,000 hectares of land have been destroyed in just two days.

    As the fires have developed this week, conflicting reports have emerged in the Spanish press. On Thursday 21st, firefighters in the area reportedly requested an increased ‘Level 3 alert’ and state of emergency. If this alert is upgraded, it would be the first time in Spanish history that a forest fire is considered a national level threat. Responsibility would, therefore, pass from regional to national government. 

    Yet, there are other reports emerging that the fire in Zamora has been ‘stabilised’ and that evacuated people are now beginning to return to their homes.

  • Las Hurdes in Cáceres province (Extremadura, Western Spain). The blaze started on July 11th for an unknown reason and as of Monday July 18th has been stabilised after destroying 2,000 hectares. 

    On Thursday 21st July, new fires were announced in the Extremadura region in the Valverde del Fresno area at two different locations.

  • Pont de Vilomara (Barcelona province, Northeastern Spain). 200 residents have been evacuated from their homes and 4,500 have been told not to leave their homes as firefighters attempt to put out several fires.

    On Wednesday 20th, firefighters confirmed the blaze at Pont de Vilomara was under control and a helicopter flyover revealed no new outbreaks.

  • Folgoso do Courel (Lugo province) and O Barco de Valdeorras (Ourense province) in the northwestern region of Galicia. At least 17 fires have destroyed more than 13,800 hectares of land, dozens of homes have been burnt down and hundreds of residents have been evacuated.

    As of midday, Thursday 21st, neither fires were under control. Galicia’s major newspaper, La Vox de Galicia, went as far as to describe the fires as remaining ‘out of control.’

  • In Aragón, firefighters are fighting a “serious and worrying” fire in Ateca (Zaragoza) that has burned 14,000 hectares in a matter of days in the region of Calatayud. The blaze has displaced 1,700 people from five municipalities.

  • Sierra de Mijas in Málaga province (southern Spain). It destroyed 2,000 hectares of forest and led to the evacuation of 2,700 people when it began on Friday. Fortunately, this blaze has now been declared under control.  

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Spain grants personhood status to threatened Mar Menor lagoon

Spain has granted personhood status to Murcia's Mar Menor saltwater lagoon in order to give its threatened ecosystem better protection, the first time such a measure has been taken in Europe.

Spain grants personhood status to threatened Mar Menor lagoon

The initiative to grant the status to the Mar Menor — one of Europe’s largest saltwater lagoons — was debated in parliament after campaigners collected over 500,000 signatures backing it.

It now becomes law after Spain’s Senate, the upper house of parliament, voted in favour of the proposal, with only far-right party Vox opposing it.

This will allow the rights of the lagoon located in southeastern Spain to be defended in court, as though it were a person or business.

“The Mar Menor becomes the first European ecosystem with its own rights after the Senate approved the bill to give it a legal identity,” the president of the Senate, Ander Gil, tweeted after the vote.

The lagoon will now be legally represented by a group of caretakers made up of local officials, scientists who work in the area and local residents.

Ecologists have for years warned that the Mar Menor is slowly dying due to the runoff of fertilisers from nearby farms.

In August 2021, millions of dead fish and crustaceans began washing up on the shores of the lagoon, which experts blamed on agricultural pollution.

They argue that sealife died due to a lack of oxygen caused by hundreds of tonnes of fertiliser nitrates leaking into the waters causing a phenomenon known as eutrophication which collapses aquatic ecosystems.

Two similar catastrophic pollution events occurred in 2016 and 2019.

Ecologists in October 2021 submitted a formal complaint to the EU over what they called Spain’s “continued failure” to protect the Mar Menor, which they warned was on the brink of “ecological collapse”.

The following month the Spanish government unveiled a 382-million-euro ($377 million) plan to regenerate the lagoon.

It outlines several environmental regeneration projects to support biodiversity in and around the lagoon, including the creation of a 1.5-kilometre (one mile) buffer zone along the Mar Menor’s shores.