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Three dead as wildfire sweeps northeast Spain

23 july 2012, 15:46
0
A wildfire is seen near Altemporada. ©AFP
A wildfire is seen near Altemporada. ©AFP
A wildfire whipped up by strong winds in northeast Spain has left three people dead and more than 20 injured, closing roads and trapping thousands of residents indoors, AFP reports citing officials.

One man and his 15-year-old daughter drowned Sunday after after they threw themselves into the sea to escape the approaching flames near the town of Portbou just across the border with France, the Catalan regional government said.

A 70-year-old man died from a heart attack as he helped battle the flames near his home in the town of Llers, it added in a statement.

Seven of the injured were said to be in serious condition. A French man suffered burns to 80 percent of his body after his car became surrounded by flames and was taken to a Barcelona hospital.

About 100 people were lightly injured because of the wildfire, a spokesman for Catalan firefighters said, adding the situation was "very serious".

The blaze broke out just after noon on Sunday near the town of La Jonquera close to the the border with France and has ravaged 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) of land, the Catalan government said.

"The fire advanced really quickly, in a way that makes it difficult to bring under control," Catalan interior minister Felip Puig told reporters.

"We are working intensively," he added.

In the early hours of Monday enormous plumes of black smoke, spread by the strong wind, hung over the Jonquera region with the fire still raging out of control.

Several roads were closed, including the key highway linking Figueres to the French city of Perpignan as well as a high-speed rail link between Spain and France.

About 80 firefighting brigades from Spain and France were fighting the wildfire, which was fanned by low humidity levels and winds of up to 90 kilometres (55 miles) an hour.

"Due to the intensity of the wind the eight aircraft which were sent to the area have not been able to drop water on the flames," the Catalan government said in a statement.

Catalan official Albert Ballesta said the fire was advancing at six kilometres (almost four miles) an hour.

Firefighters ordered residents of nine area towns, including La Jonquera and Biure, which are home to over 7,000 residents, to remain indoors with their windows and doors shut.

Catalan police said 93 people, including 74 children, were evacuated from a camp near the town of Sant Climent Sescebes and taken to a nearby military base as a precaution.

More than 4,000 people were without power in Spain because of the blaze, Catalan emergency services said.

Spain is at higher risk of forest fires than ever this summer after suffering its driest winter in 70 years.

Last week hundreds of people were driven from their homes on the island of Tenerife after a wildfire broke out.

The worst fire ravaged 50,000 hectares in the eastern Spanish region of Valencia earlier this month.

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