Costa inferno contained after thousands flee
Holidaymakers and local residents began returning to their hotels and homes in the Costa Del Sol region of southern Spain yesterday after massive wildfires forced thousands to flee.
All British holidaymakers and expatriates caught up in the blazes have been accounted for, the Foreign Office said yesterday.
Emergency officials said one man was killed by the fire but his age and nationality could not be confirmed. He had originally been identified in local reports as a British citizen.
More than 400 firefighters and members of Spain’s armed forces fought the blazes overnight on Friday, using eight helicopters and aeroplanes to help put out the flames when they came near towns and villages north of the coast.
Officials said it was the worst fire in memory in the coastal province of Malaga, part of the Andalusia region.
Places threatened by the fires included Ojen, a village of white buildings perched on a mountainside where most of the evacuees lived.
The Spanish authorities are understood to have brought the fires under control, though some patches of flames remained yesterday.
Around 300 British nationals were relocated to shelters on Friday, but none stayed overnight. The Foreign Office said it was not aware of any British casualties.
A spokesman said: “There are no reports that any British nationals have died.”
Two Britons were treated in hospital on Friday for minor injuries, thought to be smoke inhalation, but they did not stay overnight.
Expat John Taylor, who lives in Calahonda, said the wind had made the fire more ferocious than previous outbreaks, but the authorities had dealt with them effectively.
He said: “It came through much more viciously on this occasion, and much more frightening for those people on the top of Calahonda in the apartment blocks up there.”
He added that the emergency services needed to take a number of things into account when tackling the blaze.
“The authorities here that deal with this type of disaster are fully au fait with the situation, and as a resident or holidaymaker you don’t see the response that really is happening behind the scenes,” he said.
“On this occasion the winds did change enormously, which gave the services huge amounts of difficulty in knowing which direction to go.
“The services know what they’re doing.”
Travel operator Tui, which controls the First Choice and Thomson holiday companies, said none of its customers were affected. The Foreign Office is offering advice to those people travelling to parts of Spain affected by the wildfires, which were reported in Catalonia last month and have affected parts of France’s Atlantic coast, but no restrictions have been put in place.
“Fires are currently burning in the forests around Barranco Blanco, between Mijas Costa and Coin in the Malaga area of the Costa del Sol,” advice on the website read.
“The authorities have confirmed that all residents have been evacuated from their homes but many are now able to return. Fires are still burning in some areas, but the emergency services are at the scene and the fires in the main residential areas are now under control.”
The fire had threatened villages north of the upmarket beach resort of southern Costa del Sol. About 4,000 people returned to their homes and hotels yesterday.
Officials reopened the highway between Marbella and Ojen yesterday morning and were allowing evacuees to return to their homes.
The fire broke out on Thursday evening in the hills above Marbella and raced south and west through hilly, tinder-dry countryside, fanned by strong winds and high temperatures.
On Friday, Jose Antonio Grinan, the president of the Andalusia government, said firefighters suspected the blaze was started deliberately.
Every year millions of tourists visit the Costa del Sol, famed for its beaches and nightlife. Hundreds of thousands of expats from northern Europe live on the coastal belt.
High-profile residents have included Sir Sean Connery, the king of Saudi Arabia and descendants of wealthy European families such as the Rothschilds and Bismarcks.
Unusually dry weather in Spain has resulted in wildfires burning thousands of hectares of land this summer, and temperatures have hit record highs in some regions.
Thousands of people were evacuated because of wildfires this month in the Canary Islands, and four people died in fires in the border area between France and Catalonia.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
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