Spain forest fire prompts evacuation of 1,500 people

Spanish firefighters and emergency services are fighting a blaze that broke out on Saturday night near the famed Donana nature reserve in Andalusia.
Spanish firefighters and emergency services are fighting a blaze that broke out on Saturday night near the famed Donana nature reserve in Andalusia.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Not clear what started fire which spread to nature reserve, home to endangered species

MADRID • More than 1,500 people were evacuated as a precaution yesterday after a fire broke out and spread to a nature reserve in southern Spain famed for its biodiversity.

The fire started overnight and had by morning encroached on the Donana National Park at Moguer in the southern region of Andalusia, Mr Jose Fiscal, deputy head of the regional environment protection authority, told Spanish television.

The reserve enjoys Unesco status as an important biosphere reserve and is a tourist attraction.

Many of those evacuated were staying at a camp site.

The park is home to a wide variety of ecosystems and forms of wildlife including endangered species, notably the Iberian lynx and the Spanish imperial eagle.

Emergency services said the local authorities sent in 10 helicopters, seven planes and four waterbombing planes to deal with the blaze, which comes a week after forest fires killed more than 60 people in neighbouring Portugal.

The authorities were not able to speculate on the scale of the fire as it was still not under control by late morning.

The cause was also not clear and regional president Susana Diaz, who rushed to the area affected, indicated "the human factor cannot be excluded".

She said fighting the fire was proving difficult due to the hot, dry weather with temperatures reaching 39 deg C.

Spain was notably hit by a spate of forest fires in 2015 and officials said some of those could had been started deliberately.

At this time of year, Spain is also having to battle drought and several areas were classed yesterday as being at maximum risk of fire, including the Andalusian province of Huelva, where the Donana Park is.

Last week, 63 people died in a forest fire in neighbouring Portugal.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2017, with the headline 'Spain forest fire prompts evacuation of 1,500 people'. Print Edition | Subscribe