Madrid, June 26: A major forest fire in southern Spain has forced the evacuation of more than 1,500 people from homes, campsites and hotels. The blaze broke out on Saturday night near Huelva in the Andalusia region. Emergency services had deployed 11 planes, 10 helicopters and dozens of land vehicles against the flames in a joint military-civilian operation. About 750 people are being housed temporarily in sports centres.
Environment Minister of the Andalusia regional government, Jose Fiscal said on Sunday that the fire has likely to have been caused by arson. Meanwhile, the flames have reached the protected zone around a national park famed for its biodiversity, with strong heat and wind hampering fire crews’ efforts to bring it under control. The mass evacuation came as Spain seeks to avoid the human tragedy seen in neighbouring Portugal where a forest fire claimed over 60 lives last week.
As makeshift shelters are provided, fears are growing for the Doñana National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site that is home to numerous endangered species including the Iberian lynx and the Spanish Imperial Eagle. Planes and helicopters have been brought in to help combat the fire in a joint military-civilian operation.