Around 300 firefighters spent a difficult night battling a huge wildfire in southeast Spain that has burned down nearly 10,000 hectares in a notoriously difficult-to-reach area, officials said on Tuesday.
The fire started when lightning struck the Vall de Ebo area of Alicante province late on Saturday and has since spread rapidly, fueled by strong winds, forcing the evacuation of more than 1,000 people, the Valencia regional government said.
“Right now we’re talking about more than 9,500 hectares (235,000 acres) that have burned 65 kilometers (40 miles) in circumference,” Regional President Ximo Puig said late Monday, describing the fire as “absolutely huge.”
“It’s a very complicated situation… The fire is causing enormous difficulties that are absolutely impossible to manage at the speed we want.”
Regional Interior Minister Gabriela Bravo told TV station Antena 3 that around 300 firefighters were battling the blazes, supported by 24 planes and helicopters.
Firefighters elsewhere in the region were also battling two other wildfires north of the city of Valencia, with hundreds of firefighters and at least 10 firefighting planes involved in the operation, officials said.
Further north, firefighters in the Aragon region battled another major blaze that broke out on Saturday, burning more than 6,000 hectares of land and forcing at least 1,500 people from their homes.
– Worse than 2021 –
Meanwhile, a huge wildfire in central Portugal, which raged for a week in a UNESCO-designated nature park and was finally brought under control on Friday night, flared up again on Tuesday, the civil protection authority said.
More than 1,200 firefighters have been drafted in to fight the blaze, which has already consumed around 15,000 hectares and is “burning fiercely,” with flames whipped up by strong winds, the agency said.
Spain has suffered 391 wildfires so far this year, fueled 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 (EFFIS).
This year’s fires in Spain were particularly devastating, destroying more than triple the area consumed by wildfires in all of 2021, which totaled 84,827 hectares, figures show.
Portugal has suffered 195 wildfires so far this year that have devastated 84,717 hectares of land, EFFIS figures show.
Scientists say human-caused climate change is making extreme weather events, including heat waves and droughts, more frequent and more intense. They, in turn, increase the risk of fires that release climate-warming greenhouse gases.
Fires have broken out across Europe, particularly in France, Greece and Portugal, making 2022 a record year for wildfires on the continent.
The fire in Portugal’s Serra da Estrela Natural Park started outside the central city of Covilha on August 6, and authorities have deployed 373 fire engines and 12 planes and helicopters to support firefighters’ attempts to tame it.
The fire has so far seriously injured three people and injured 19 others less seriously, while 45 people have been evacuated as a precautionary measure since Monday as Portugal battles its worst wildfires since 2017, which have killed about 100 people.
The head of Portugal’s civil protection agency, Andre Fernandes, warned of the likelihood of the fire spreading and said attempts to stabilize it could be hampered by wind.
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