Firefighters in Spain battle blazes amid unusual heatwave


BARCELONA, Spain: Firefighters from Spain Sunday struggled to contain wildfires in several parts of the country, which is experiencing an unusual heat wave for this time of year.
The worst damage was in the northwestern province of Zamora where more than 25,000 hectares (61,000 acres) were consumed, regional authorities said.
The fire that started in the Sierra de la Culebra in Zamora forced the evacuation of at least 10 villages, although lower temperatures overnight helped the effort somewhat. More than 500 firefighters are supported by water dump planes and helicopters in the sparsely populated area.
Authorities have been alerted to an outbreak of intense wildfires, with Spain sweltering in record temperatures in many parts of the country in June. Experts link the abnormally hot period for Europe to climate change. Thermometers topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in many Spanish cities throughout the week – temperatures typically expected in August.
A lack of precipitation this year combined with gusty winds have created the conditions for the fires.
Authorities said winds of up to 70 km/h (43 mph) that changed course erratically, combined with temperatures close to 40 degrees Celsius, made it very difficult for the crews.
“The fire was able to cross a reservoir about 500 meters wide and reach the other side, to give you an idea of ​​the difficulties we faced,” said Juan Suárez-Quiñones, an official in the Castilla region. y León, on Spanish public television TVE.
The Zamora fire was sparked by a strike from an electrical storm on Wednesday, authorities said. The spreading fire caused the high-speed train service between Madrid and northwestern Spain to be cut off on Saturday. He was reinstated on Sunday morning.
Military firefighting units have been deployed in Zamora, Navarra and Lleida.
No deaths were reported, but the flames reached the outskirts of some villages in Zamora and central Navarre. Videos shot by passengers in cars showed flames licking the sides of the roads. In other villages, residents watched in despair as black plumes rose from nearby hills.
In central Navarre, authorities evacuated around 15 small villages as a precaution, as high temperatures are not expected to drop until Wednesday.
They also asked farmers to stop using heavy machinery that could unintentionally start a fire.
“The situation remains delicate. We have several active fires due to extremely high temperatures and strong winds,” Navarre Regional Vice President Javier Remírez told TVE.
Remírez said some villages had seen damaged buildings on their outskirts.
Some wild animals had to be evacuated from an animal park in Navarre and taken to an arena for safekeeping, authorities said.
Wildfires are also active in three parts of the northeast Catalonia: in Lleida, in Tarragona and in a natural park in Garaf, just south of Barcelona.

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