Madrid(Spain)- Some 300 firefighters spent a problematic night battling a massive wildfire in southeastern Spain that has burnt through nearly 10,000 hectares in an area notoriously difficult to access, officials said Tuesday.
The fire began when lightning hit the Vall de Ebo area in the province of Alicante late Saturday and has since spread rapidly, fuelled by strong winds, forcing the evacuation of more than 1,000 people, Valencia’s regional government said.
“At the moment, we are talking about more than 9,500 hectares (235,000 acres) burnt with a perimeter of 65 kilometres (40 miles),” regional president Ximo Puig said late Monday, describing the blaze as “absolutely huge”.
“It’s a very complicated situation… The fire creates enormous difficulties that are impossible to tackle with the speed we would like.”
Regional interior minister Gabriela Bravo told Antena 3 television some 300 firefighters were battling the flames, backed by 24 planes and helicopters.
Officials said that firefighters elsewhere in the region were also battling two other wildfires north of Valencia city, with hundreds of firefighters and at least 10 firefighting planes engaged in the operation.
Further north, firefighters in the Aragon region were battling another major blaze that broke out Saturday and burnt over 6,000 hectares of land, forcing at least 1,500 people from their homes.
Worse than 2021
Meanwhile, a massive wildfire in central Portugal that raged for a week in a UNESCO-designated natural park and was finally brought under control on Friday night flared up again Tuesday, the civil protection authority said.
More than 1,200 firefighters had been drafted to tackle the blaze, which had already consumed some 15,000 hectares and was “burning fiercely” with the flames whipped up by strong winds.
So far this year, Spain has suffered 391 wildfires, fuelled 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 have been particularly devastating, destroying more than three times the area consumed by wildfires in 2021, which amounted to 84,827 hectares, the figures show.
Portugal has suffered 195 wildfires so far this year, which have ravaged 84,717 hectares of land, EFFIS figures show.
Scientists say human-induced climate change makes extreme weather events, including heatwaves and droughts, more frequent and intense. They, in turn, increase the risk of fires, which emit climate-heating greenhouse gases.
Fires have blazed across Europe, particularly in France, Greece and Portugal, making 2022 a record year for wildfires on the continent.
The blaze in Portugal’s Serra da Estrela natural park started on August 6 outside the central town of Covilha and authorities have deployed 373 fire engines and 12 planes and helicopters to bolster firefighters’ attempts to tame it.
Portugal’s civil protection agency head Andre Fernandes warned of the probability the fire would spread and said attempts to stabilise it was liable to be hampered by the wind.