Crews in southern Spain face a ‘advanced’ wildfire on the fifth day | World information
By ARITZ PARRA, Associated Press
MADRID (AP) – Firefighters in southern Spain look to the skies for much-needed rainfall expected Monday, hoping they can help put out a major forest fire that devastated 7,700 hectares (19,000 acres) in five days has displaced around 2,600 people from their homes.
Authorities describe the fire in the Sierra Bermeja, a mountain range in the province of Malaga, as a sixth generation fire of the extreme kind that climate change has brought to the planet. The “mega-fires” are catastrophic events that kill, blacken large areas and are difficult to stop.
In Spain this is accompanied by an increasing dynamic of population loss in rural areas, which leads to poor forest management and the accumulation of combustible material.
“We are facing the most complex fire that the forest destruction services have come to know in recent years,” Juan Sánchez, director of the fire protection service of the South Andalusia region, told reporters late on Sunday.
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“We talked a lot about the consequences of abandoning the rural environment and climate change,” added Sánchez. “We see you today.”
The affected area has doubled since Saturday when authorities announced the flames were trapped within a radius of approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles). A cloud of embers led to a new source of fire shortly afterwards and caused a new wildfire that eventually joined the previous fire, experts said on Sunday. By Monday morning, the radius was 85 kilometers (about 50 miles).
The Spanish weather agency AEMET had predicted rain in the region later Monday, but it was unclear whether the rainfall would be enough to extinguish the flames.
Around 500 firefighters worked in shifts on the ground, supported by 50 water cannons and helicopters from the air. They were joined by 260 members of a military emergency unit on Sunday. A 44-year-old firefighter died Thursday while trying to put out the fire.
A total of around 2,600 residents were resettled. Most of those evacuated from parts of the resort of Estepona were able to return home by Monday, but 1,700 people remained displaced from six villages and were housed in other cities, including in a pavilion in the city of Ronda.
Climate scientists say there is little doubt that the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is causing climate change to cause more extreme events such as heat waves, droughts, forest fires, floods and storms.
In Spain, official data showed the country had seen fewer fires so far this year than the average for the past decade, but the number of large forest fires – affecting more than 500 hectares (1,200 acres) – was 19 in the first eight months 2021 compared to 14 on average over the same period since 2011.
This has also resulted in a larger area of bush and forest burned: 75,000 hectares (186,000 acres) on September 5, compared with an average of 71,000 hectares in previous years, data from the Department of Ecological Transition showed.
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