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.
“It was a very complicated night,” regional interior minister Gabriela Bravo told TV station Antena 3, saying about 300 firefighters were battling the blazes, supported by 24 planes and helicopters.
“Right now we are talking about more than 9,500 hectares that have burned with a circumference of 65 kilometers (40 miles),” 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.”
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 were hoping to control another large fire that broke out on Saturday, burning more than 6,000 hectares of land and forcing at least 1,500 people from their homes.
Spain has suffered 391 wildfires so far this year, fueled by searing temperatures and drought conditions, according to the latest figures from the European Forest Fire Information System, which have destroyed a total of 271,020 hectares of land.
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.
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.
In Portugal, a wildfire brought under control last week reignited on Tuesday in the UNESCO-designated Serra da Estrela Natural Park, the Civil Protection Agency said.
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