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Thousands flee as fire rages near Spanish resort, injures two

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, August 31, 2012 7:19 EDT
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Spanish forest fire via AFP
 
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MADRID, Spain — Flames roared across a 12-kilometre (seven-mile) front near the glitzy Spanish resort of Marbella on Friday, injuring two and forcing thousands to evacuate.

More than 250 firefighters on the ground, backed by eight planes and nine helicopters, battled the blaze after hot, dry winds sent it racing through tinder-dry forest in southern Spain.

Bright orange flames danced high above the tree tops, lighting up the night sky as a line of fire glowed across the Sierra Negra mountains by the Costa del Sol resort.

“Thousands of people have been evacuated, there are also two injured,” said Elias Bendodo, president of the government of the Malaga province, which includes Marbella.

Spanish media said a man and a woman suffered burns when the fire reached their chalet in the district of Rosario in the foothills of the mountain range, a dramatic backdrop to the long white beaches on the Mediterranean coast.

One of them was reported to be seriously injured.

The emergency services were not immediately available to confirm the reports.

It was impossible to give an exact number of evacuees, the Malaga president said.

“It is incalculable, but we can say there are thousands of people evacuated, mostly as a precautionary measure, from the municipal districts,” Bendodo said.

“In the municipal district of Ojen, people had to be evacuated with the flames one kilometre (half a mile) away from housing, but they managed to contain it.”

The inferno broke out in the mountains Thursday afternoon, later extending across up to 12 kilometres and affecting half a dozen municipal districts including Marbella.

Marbella’s sandy beaches and vibrant night life attract about 1.5 million foreign tourists a year, mostly Britons but also Nordic visitors and Germans, French, Italians, Dutch and Belgians.

“A relative lack of humidity, strong winds and high temperatures in the afternoon helped the fire to grow quickly,” said a statement by the regional government of southern Andalusia.

Before dawn Friday, winds dropped and the air was more humid, helping firefighters to tackle the blaze, the Andalucia government said. “The fire may be stabilized in the next hours,” it said.

Spain is at particularly high risk of fires this summer after suffering its driest winter in 70 years, and blazes have broken out in various parts of the country in recent days.

Flames have destroyed 139,886 hectares (353,665 acres) of land between January 1 and August 12, three times the amount during the same time last year and the highest amount in a decade, according to agriculture ministry figures.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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