Spain forest fire kills many

At least a dozen firefighters have been killed in a forest fire raging along a 17km front in central Spain, a regional official says.

    Fierce fires are raging in several regions of Spain

    A local government source said the toll from one of Spain's worst fire-fighting disasters could be as high as 14. 

    The fire broke out on Saturday in a nature reserve in the
    Guadalajara area east of Madrid after visitors failed to put out
    a barbecue properly, officials said. 

    By Sunday night it was spreading out of control after scorching thousands of hectares of pine trees and brush. 

    Parched by a heatwave and the worst drought since the 1940s, much of Spain is like a tinder box and fierce fires are burning in several regions.

    Jose Luis Samper, mayor of the town of Riba de Saelices, near where the deadly fire began, said a fire patrol that had come from nearby Soria province to help was surprised by the flames and trapped in a remote spot. 

    "After they had been missing for more than two hours, some
    people from this village ventured out ... and finally found them. There was only one survivor. We don't know exactly how many bodies, but they found at least 12 bodies, absolutely burned," he told Spanish state radio.

    "We don't know exactly how many bodies, but they found at least 12 bodies, absolutely burned"

    Jose Luis Samper,
    Riba de Saelices mayor

    He said the victims were men and women in their 20s. 

    Media reports said the patrol, which had two trucks and
    three four-wheel-drive vehicles, was caught by a sudden change in the wind. 

    Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, who rushed to the scene to get first-hand information, was booed on arrival by local people demanding more resources to fight the fire, news reports said. 

    Evacuation

    About 500 people have been evacuated from four villages.

    Strong winds drove the blaze quickly through resinous pines and flames leaped up to 40 metres high, according to witnesses. 

    About 150 firefighters tackled the blaze on Sunday on the
    ground and from the air. As night fell, they were cutting fire
    breaks to try to halt the advance of the blaze. 

    Police arrested a man believed to have started another fire
    close to a Repsol oil refinery in the town of Puertollano in
    central Spain. That fire was under control, a government
    official said. 

    In Zamora province, also in central Spain, a fire that had
    consumed about 1200 hectares was now manageable,
    a government spokesman said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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