20th April 2024
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Wildfire, ‘intentionally started’ in Extremadura, forces hundreds to evacuate

Firefighters supported by special units of soldiers continued to battle a wildfire in the region of Extremadura on Friday, that has already forced hundreds of people to evacuate from nearby villages, officials said.

The blaze, which broke out on Wednesday near the village of Pinofranqueado, in the province of Cáceres, 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.

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

Extremadura’s president, Guillermo Fernández Vara, said that he had postponed his political campaigning for the regional elections taking place on 28 May, in order to fully address the crisis, and said that ‘our enemy is now the wind’. 

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. He estimated the blaze had so far ravaged up to 1,500 hectares 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. ALSO READ: 1,500 evacuated as Spain’s wildfires start early.

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.

Climate change amplifies droughts that create ideal conditions for wildfires to spread out of control and inflict unprecedented material and environmental damage.

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