ESTEPONA, Spain, September 9 (Reuters) – A forest fire has forced the evacuation of more than 900 people from the vicinity of the resort town of Estepona in southern Spain, local authorities said on Thursday.
A 44-year-old firefighter died while working on the wildfire, regional environment chief Carmen Crespo told reporters.
The blaze started around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and has since burned about 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) of the densely forested area known as Sierra Bermeja, according to emergency services.
A total of 939 people were evacuated from four communities in Estepona, which is popular with British pensioners and holidaymakers, and one in the nearby town of Benahavis, authorities said.
Local resident Cristina Zamora, 38, rushed through the streets with a large gray cat draped over her arm while a photographer helped her with another cat in a box.
“I was at work so I ran back to look for the animals… I had to leave my parakeets behind,” she said.
An elderly UK resident who gave his name as Arthur drove through the village escorted by police before hopping into a car with his wife and dog.
“It’s just one of those things… these things happen,” he said when asked if he was afraid of the fire.
A Reuters witness saw huge clouds of smoke rising from the forest and heading towards the village of Las Abejeras in Estepona, which was evacuated on Wednesday evening.
More than 300 firefighters are working to put out the blaze, which has yet to be brought under control, Andalusia emergency services posted on Twitter.
Several roads, including a section of the AP-7 motorway, which runs along the Mediterranean, were closed due to the fire.
By the end of August, forest fires had devastated 74,260 hectares (183,500 acres) in Spain, above the average for the past 10 years, but still far from the 190,000 hectares (469,500 acres) destroyed in 2012, the worst year. of the last decade.
Data from the Ministry of the Environment shows that seven of the ten hottest years on record in Spain occurred in the last decade.
Unusually large forest fires have raged across parts of the world this year, fueled by extremely hot and dry conditions that experts say are symptomatic of climate change.
Reporting by Jon Nazca; Additional reporting and writing by Inti Landauro, Emma Pinedo, Nathan Allen and Jesús Aguado; edited by Andrei Khalip, Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis
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