One Briton dies as thousands are forced to flee Costa del Sol wildfires
A BRITISH man has died in wildfires that have forced thousands of people to flee their homes on Spain’s Costa del Sol.
The man, who was found in a collapsed tool shed at a house that was earlier believed to have been evacuated, was identified as a 78-year-old Briton, according to local reports.
More than 4,000 people, including about 300 Britons, were forced to flee as flames fanned by strong winds devoured hillsides around the luxurious southern Mediterranean resort of Marbella.
The Foreign Office said two Britons had been treated in hospital.
Regional interior ministry official Jose Luis Ruiz Espejo said the fire had started outside the mountain-side town of Coin, north-east of Marbella.
The regional government of Andalusia said the elderly man’s charred body had been found near Ojen. Police were satisfied nobody else died in the house where the body was found.
The fire started on Thursday afternoon and last night had affected an area of around 2,500 acres. Jose Antonio Grinan, president of the Andalusia government, said firefighters suspected arson.
Spain’s defence ministry said the army had sent 200 vehicles, including 32 fire appliances, to the scene of the blaze.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We have today deployed staff from the Malaga Consulate to visit evacuation centres in the region in order to provide assistance to British residents who were forced to leave their homes.
“Some 300 British nationals have now all left the evacuation centres in the La Cala de Mijas and Calahonda areas to which they were relocated.
“They are either returning home or staying with friends. We are aware of two Britons who have been treated in hospital – they are in good condition.”
He was unable to confirm that the dead man was British or how many Scots had been involved in the evacuation.
Gill Williams, a Briton who lives in Monda, near Marbella, said an evacuation siren had gone off at 3am yesterday.
She said: “The wind has picked up and the fires are coming towards Monda. We are preparing to leave with our dogs, cats and four hens. There has been fantastic support on social media, with all us expats helping out.
“There was a shelter for stray dogs and cats – there has been so much support that saved a lot of the animals.”
Frank McGuiness, originally from Birmingham, who settled at Alhauin el Grande after a career working in Britain and five other countries as an X-ray and scanning specialist, told how he watched the wildfire as it spread along the horizon in the early hours some 12 miles from his home.
“Flames were leaping high into the air,” he said. “It was raging along at a huge speed – very spectacular and dramatic.
“Now the sky is full of smoke. The sun is completely blotted out. We can’t see the sun.”
He went on: “The fire started near Coin, which is west of us. Then it went south on a wide front down almost to the edge of Marbella. It has now reached a spot about five kilometres –three miles – from the coast. It is an enormous fire.”
Kimberley Stone, a British woman on holiday with her family in the village of El Soto, said the fire had approached rapidly on Thursday night, forcing them to flee their apartment.
She said: “As we drove down the hill, we went through burning embers that were everywhere. Fires are not uncommon, but I have never seen them on this scale before. The wildfire seemed to dip and then suddenly the wind picked up and we saw fire coming towards our apartment.”
They drove to El Puerto, spending the night in the car.
A British family of 12 returned from a day at the beach to find flames licking their rented holiday villa near Mijas on Thursday evening. The head of the family, who did not want to be named, told a local newspaper: “We saw a lot of smoke and heard the police sirens. We didn’t know what to do.”
He said two of the taxis whose drivers had volunteered to ferry evacuees to safety had picked them up and taken them back to the beach area.
A dry winter followed by a scorching hot summer has left much of southern Spain tinder dry. The country has seen 580sq miles of land burnt in nearly 12,000 wildfires so far this year.
Marbella, with its leisure craft port of Puerto Banus, is one of Europe’s most luxurious seaside destinations, with mansions and palaces belonging to aristocrats and the rich and famous. High-profile residents have included Sir Sean Connery, the king of Saudi Arabia and descendants of wealthy European families such as Bismarck and Rothschild.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west