Spain: Fires force evacuation of 2 000

2012-08-28 14:00

Madrid - Hundreds of firefighters battled several wildfires that raged west of Madrid on Tuesday and forced the evacuation overnight of 2 000 people from their homes, an emergency services spokesperson said.

The fires, which broke out on Monday and have so far ravaged more than 2 000ha according to Spanish media reports, appear to have been deliberately set, he added.
"All the fires are coming under control, except for one which is posing more problems, in the Santa Catalina mountain range," he said.

The wildfires affected mostly the towns of Valdemaqueda and Robledo de Chavela, about 60km west of the Spanish capital.

About 2 000 people spent the night in emergency shelters as a precaution and while the flames neared built-up areas no homes appear to have been destroyed, the emergency services spokesperson said.

Roughly 500 firefighters and forest rangers, backed by 11 helicopters and three water-dropping aircraft, were working to put out the blazes.

Simultaneous outbreaks

"If weather conditions evolve favourably, especially the wind, the fires could be brought under control during the day," the spokesperson said.

"All indications lead us to believe that the fires were intentionally set. There were four simultaneous outbreaks, that is not a coincidence," he added.

Spain is at particularly high risk of fires this summer after suffering its driest winter in 70 years, and blazes have broken out in various parts of the country in recent days.

Flames have destroyed 139 886ha of land between 1 January and 12 August, three times the amount during the same time last year and the highest amount in a decade, according to agriculture ministry figures.