Wildfire in Spain forces hundreds to evacuate

AFP - [email protected]
Wildfire in Spain forces hundreds to evacuate
Fire fighters tackle a blaze in Spain's Extremadura. Photo: Jose Jordan / AFP

Firefighters backed by soldiers battled a wildfire in western Spain on Friday that has forced hundreds of people to evacuate from nearby villages, officials said.


The blaze, which broke out Wednesday near the village of Pinofranqueado in the sparsely populated region of Extremadura, was set "intentionally", the region's agriculture minister Begona Garcia told reporters.

At least 550 people from several villages have been evacuated because of the risk of the flames, Spain's Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Why are there so many forest fires in Spain?

The battle against the blaze was "evolving unfavourably, mainly due to the strong winds," the statement added.

Over 275 professionals backed by 14 water aircraft were working to put out the flames, the regional government said. The firefighting team included some 165 soldiers from Spain's military emergencies unit UME.

"There are very strong gusts of wind, which are making it very difficult to put out the fire," UME commander David Barona told public television TVE.

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

He estimated the blaze had so far ravaged up to 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of land.

In a tweet, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said he was following the "evolution of the wildfire very closely".

Spain, which is experiencing long-term drought after three years of below-average rainfall, has experienced multiple wildfires already this year.

The drought was made worse by an unusually early heatwave at the end of April that brought exceptionally high temperatures normally only seen in summer across much of the country.


READ ALSO: Spain to spend €2 billion to tackle drought

The mercury hit 38.8C (101.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in the southern city of Granada on April 27th, the hottest temperature ever recorded in mainland Spain during that month.

In 2022, a particularly bad year for wildfires in Europe, Spain was the continent's worst-hit country. Nearly 500 blazes destroyed more than 300,000 hectares, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.

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


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