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Heavy rainfall helps contain huge wildfires in Spain’s Valencia region

Heavy rainfall on Wednesday night has helped contain huge wildfires raging in two areas of Spain's Valencian Community.

Heavy rainfall helps contain huge wildfires in Spain's Valencia region
The entire Valencian Community remains on extreme alert level due to the risk of forest fires throughout the region. Photo: CESAR MANSO/AFP

A record-breaking heatwave and historically low rainfall have combined to cause wildfires across Spain this summer, with thousands of hectares burned in southern Extremadura and as far north as Asturias. 

This week the eastern Valencia region has struggled with two major fires. In Bejís, 70 kilometres northwest of Valencia, strong winds contributed to spread the blaze which has so far burnt up 10,000 hectares of land and forced the evacuation of 1,500 people.

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In the south of the region, another fire began when lightning hit the Vall d’Ebo area in Alicante province late on Saturday night. Like in Bejís, strong winds caused the blaze to spread and burned 11,000 hectares. The fire has forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 people, according to Valencia’s regional government.

In the Vall d’Ebo, locals were evacuated from the municipalities of Famorca, Facheca, Tollos, Beniaia, Benimassot, Benirrama and Beniali. 

In Bejís, the municipalities of Toràs, Bejís, Sacañet and Teresa were evacuated.

However stormy weather overnight has offered some respite to locals and firefighters and emergency services tackling the blazes. In Bejís, rains have helped party extinguish the flames, and down in Alicante heavier rain has all but done the job of the fire brigade for them. 

Between 14 and 20 litres of rain per square metre were recorded overnight in Bejís, which have significantly reduced the flames firefighters are facing, and in Alicante, around 40 litres/sqm of rain in 12 hours allowed emergency services to confirm on the morning of August 18th that there were no longer any active flames in the Alicante area.

READ ALSO: What to do and what to avoid if you witness a forest fire in Spain

“The perimeter is more stable after the rainfall. There has been a small reproduction in the Benimassot area, but it is already controlled,” emergency services said.

The entire Valencian Community remains on extreme alert level due to the risk of forest fires throughout the region.

Wildfire season

So far this year, Spain has suffered 391 wildfires, fuelled by scorching temperatures and drought conditions, which have destroyed a total of 271,020 hectares of land, according to the latest figures from the European Forest Fire Information System.

This year’s fires in Spain have been particularly devastating, destroying more than three times the area consumed by wildfires in the whole of 2021, which amounted to 84,827 hectares, the figures show.

Scientists say human-induced climate change is making extreme weather events, including heatwaves and droughts, more frequent and intense. They in turn increase the risk of fires, which emit climate-heating greenhouse gases.

READ MORE: ‘Thousands of hectares’ destroyed by wildfire in Spain

Fires have blazed across Europe, particularly in France, Greece and Portugal, making 2022 a record year for wildfires on the continent.

In Portugal, a wildfire brought under control last week reignited Tuesday in the UNESCO-designated Serra da Estrela natural park, the civil protection agency said.

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WEATHER

Spain braces for possible tropical cyclone

After scorching summer temperatures, record-breaking droughts, wildfires across the country and deadly hail storms, Spain's extreme weather could be set to continue with a possible tropical cyclone.

Spain braces for possible tropical cyclone

Spain has suffered its fair share of extreme weather this summer. Whether it be temperatures in the high forties during Spain’s ola de calora mini-tsunami in southern Spain, forest fires across the country, or a freak hail storm that killed a toddler recently, Spanish weather has been as unpredictable as it has extreme. 

READ MORE: WHO says heatwave caused 1,700 deaths in Spain and Portugal

To further add to the summer of extreme weather, meteorologists are now predicting a possible tropical cyclone could be headed for the Spanish mainland. 

According to Spanish weather website eltiempo.es, an unstable area of pressure is currently sitting in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean at relatively high latitudes. Forecasts from various weather models suggest this zone could form a tropical storm.

The United States National Hurricane Center gives a 70 percent chance of a cyclone forming in the coming days.

READ MORE: VIDEO: ‘Mini tsunami’ shocks beachgoers in southern Spain

Models suggest that it would move slowly to the northeast, then turn eastward and move more quickly, picking up its maximum intensity, with the modelling forecasting that it could have the characteristics of a Category 1 hurricane from Tuesday of next week.

It is worth noting that although several models are predicting this, the possibility of whether the potential cyclone will affect Spain, or perhaps even reach the mainland, is not yet certain.

However, eltiempo.es states that “several of the main weather models indicate that the tropical cyclone could approach Spain on Thursday next week.”

This wouldn’t be the first tropical storm system to affect the Iberian Peninsula, however. In 2005, Hurricane Vince entered Spain as a tropical storm through the Gulf of Cadiz. And in 2018, the remains of Hurricane Leslie also reached Spain as a cyclone.

Effects

What happens if a cyclone does form? What happens if it approaches, or even enters, the Spanish mainland? If it were to move towards the northwest coast of the country, it is predicted to cause a strong burst of sustained southern wind.

It would also cause rough seas along Atlantic coast, as well as heavy rain.

If the potential cyclone approaches the mainland or even enters the peninsula, intense winds would likely be felt across the country, and there could ‘widespread instability’, according to eltiempo.es, with strong winds and rain.

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