Spanish wildfire causes mass evacuation

At least one killed as homes and campsites evacuated while blaze threatens resort city of Marbella in southern Spain.

    A wildfire fanned by strong winds has devoured hillsides around the wealthy Mediterranean resort city of Marbella in Spain.

    At least one person died in Friday's fire, while two others sustained burns and more than 4,000 others were forced to evacuate their homes.

    Jose Ruiz Espejo, regional interior ministry official, said the fire started outside the mountainside town of Coin, northeast of Marbella, and that authorities suspect arson.

    Al Jazeera's Felicity Barr, reporting from Marbella, said many of the area's residents were forced to leave their homes in the early morning hours of Friday.

    All the residents of the nearby town of Ojen were forced to evacuate as flames swept through their valley. Most spent much of the night sheltered in sports centres in Marbella.

    'Criminal act'

    Fernando Fernandez, the mayor of Mijas, said many of its residents had been evacuated, but strong east winds had "fortunately for us, swept the fire westwards, toward Marbella".

    Andalucia's regional government said a 78-year-old British man's charred body was found Friday "in a tool shed" near Ojen.

    Local police found the body while searching through the burnt embers of a house, the statement said.

    Two 58-year-old people were in critical condition with burns covering more than 60 per cent of their bodies, according to a regional government statement.

    Jose Antonio Grinan, the regional president, said two people were being treated for burns and bruises.

    Grinan said if the suspicion of arson is proven true, it would be "a criminal act".

    Luxury resort

    Marbella, with its leisure craft port of Puerto Banus, is one of Europe's most luxurious seaside destinations.

    Its normally green hillsides are studded with mansions and palaces belonging to aristocrats, the rich and the famous.

    High-profile residents have included Scottish actor Sean Connery, the King of Saudi Arabia and descendants of wealthy European families such as the Bismarcks and Rothschilds.

    A dry winter followed by a scorching hot summer has left much of southern Spain tinder dry and susceptible to fires, but Barr said authorities are now "very hopful that the wind has changed direction sufficiently" to protect the areas from further damage.

    Though, many homes have been destroyed, our correspondent said that "those people whose houses have been damaged [but not destroyed] have been told that they may be able to go home tonight".

    So far this year, about 1,500 square kilometres of land in Spain has burned in nearly 12,000 wildfires.

    Other European nations, including Greece, Portugal and Bosnia, have also faced blazes spawned by similar conditions.

    Bosnia's government said on Friday that it was considering asking for international help after a blaze around the southern mountain of Prenj, which has burned continuously for three weeks, had left the area resembling a smoking volcano.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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