Wildfire forces evacuation of Spanish towns

Published : September 13, 2021 15:56 IST

A helicopter makes a water drop over a wildfire near Estepona, Spain. Photo: AP

The blaze continues to rage close to a popular Costa del Sol resort, fanned by strong winds and late summer temperatures.

Soldiers were deployed in southeastern Spain on September 12 to join the battle against a major wildfire that is burning for the fifth day.

How is the Spanish government responding to the fire?

A military unit was traveling from the military base of Moron, near Seville, to join more than 300 firefighters and 41 water-dropping aircraft battling the flames.

The regional government in Andalusia said two more towns would be evacuated, with around 2,500 people having been ordered to leave their homes. Around 500 residents of Jubrique were helped to evacuate, and 400 inhabitants of nearby Genalguacil were told to prepare to leave.

"The evacuation is taking place with maximum security measures and before a possible unfavorable evolution of the fire in that area," the regional government said in a statement. "There hasn't been a forest fire like this in Andalusia or probably in Spain for ages," Andalusian President Juanma Moreno said.

The blaze broke out in the Sierra Bermeja mountains on September 8. The volcanic mountain range lies above the town of Estepona, a Mediterranean resort favored by European tourists and retirees.

Officials suspect arson

The wildfire, fanned by strong winds and high late-summer temperatures, has already destroyed more than 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres) of forest. One emergency worker was killed while trying to extinguish the blaze.

Regional environment chief Carmen Crespo said on September 10 the blaze appeared to have been started deliberately and investigators were working to uncover more details. Infoca, the agency in charge of regional firefighting efforts, described Sunday as a "key day" for bringing the blaze under control.

Wildfires are common in southern Europe during the hot, dry summer months, but have been particularly numerous around the Mediterranean this year, worsened by the intense August heat waves. In Spain, over 75,000 hectares (186,000 acres) of forest and bush areas have burned in the first eight months of the year, according to official data.

mm/jlw (AP, Reuters)