Wildfire rages in central Spain

August 1, 2013 1:46 pm
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A plane from the fire brigade flies past smoke billowing from the mountains, near the village of Estellencs, on the island of Mallorca during a wildfire on July 28, 2013/AFP
A plane from the fire brigade flies past smoke billowing from the mountains, near the village of Estellencs, on the island of Mallorca during a wildfire on July 28, 2013/AFP
The blaze had destroyed 1,300 hectares (3,200 acres) since breaking out on Wednesday in a field near Valdepenas de la Sierra, in a farming area some 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of Madrid.

“There is a risk that there will be a rise in temperature and the wind speed will increase from 2:00 pm” (1600 GMT), warned the agriculture minister for the surrounding Castilla la Mancha region, Maria Luisa Soriano, during a visit to the area.

The regional government said in a statement that nearly 350 people backed up by 21 aircraft and 43 ground vehicles were fighting the blaze on Thursday morning.

The 130 residents were evacuated on Wednesday from two nearby villages.

The temperature in the area on Thursday was forecast to be at least 36 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit).

Another forest fire that broke out on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca last week burned 2,335 hectares of ground, much of it in the Sierra de Tramuntana, a UNESCO listed mountainous region.

The fire on Mallorca was the worst on record on the Balearic Islands, the regional government there said. A man was arrested, suspected of causing the fire by lighting a barbecue.

Spain is highly prone to forest fires in summer when the land lies parched in soaring temperatures that can top 40 degrees Celsius.

Last year wildfires destroyed 147,854 hectares of land between January and late July, according to the agriculture ministry, after one of the driest winters on record.

This year the winter was wetter and there have been fewer summer fires so far in the summer, with 13,335 hectares burned during the first six months of 2013.

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