Massive forest fire in Spain threatens World Heritage park

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 June, 2017, 11:37pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 June, 2017, 11:37pm

A forest fire in southern Spain forced the evacuation of 1,000 people and is threatening a national park famous for its biodiversity, authorities said on Sunday.

The flames have advanced eastward and have entered Donana National Park, one of Spain’s most important nature reserves and a Unesco World Heritage site since 1994. The park, which has over 50,000 hectares of wetlands and woods, is an important stop for migratory birds from Africa and Europe and is home to a variety of animals, including the highly endangered Iberian lynx and the Iberian imperial eagle.

“The fire has entered in the limits of the reserve, and that is where we are focusing our efforts,” Jose Gregorio Fiscal Lopez from the regional Andalusian authority in charge of the environment told Spanish national television.

Susana Diaz, the regional president of Andalusia, said “there’s no risk to the population” after a 1,000 people were evacuated from campsites and houses near the town of Moguer on Spain’s southern coast where the fire started on Saturday night.

By midday on Sunday, at least 750 people were allowed to return.

Still, Diaz said fighting the fire was proving difficult due to the hot, dry weather, with temperatures reaching 39 degrees Celsius and shifting winds. Over 150 firefighters and 21 air units were combating the blaze on Sunday after televised images showed trees engulfed by flames overnight.

“It’s still very early, but we are not ruling out the human factor” as a possible cause of the fire, said Diaz.

She also thanked Spain’s King Felipe VI for his phone call of concern about the fire.

The fire comes a week after wildfires killed 64 people in neighbouring Portugal, which like Spain is suffering from lack of rain and high temperatures.