| 19 June 2024, Wednesday |

Dozens evacuated as wildfire spreads on Spain-France border

More than 130 people were reportedly evacuated as firefighters battled to contain a blaze in Portbou on the Spanish-French border on the Mediterranean coast on Saturday.

Firefighters from Catalonia in northern Spain joined forces with their French counterparts as the flames tore through 435 hectares (1,100 acres) of land and threatened an estimated 2,500 hectares more.

Local people were evacuated overnight from several villages as a precaution hours after the fire was declared to the south of Portbou, whose railway station connects Spain with France.

Catalan forest rangers said on Twitter, rebranded X, that an investigation was under way into the cause of the fire.

In a statement on the Catalan regional government website, they added the blaze “remains active” and that their priority was to prevent it encroaching on the nearby tourist resort of Llanca to the south.

Strong winds had helped the fire to spread overnight and prevented water-bombing planes from taking off to aid a firefighting operation complicated by the hilly terrain affected.

The Catalan fire service said it expected airborne operations to be able to start Saturday afternoon following helicopter reconnaissance beforehand.

They added that as well as evacuating around 135 local people, several hundred more had had to spend the night confined in their villages or at campsites which at this time of year typically welcome thousands of tourists.

Catalan Red Cross volunteers were aiding the rescue operation.

Catalan civil protection officials said some 4,000 people were without electricity and that rail traffic had been suspended between Portbou and Figueres, some 30 kilometres (18 miles) to the south. The main road into Portbou and to the French border was also closed.

Last year, some 500 blazes laid waste to more than 300,000 hectares in Spain, a record for Europe, according to data from the European Forest Fire Information System (Effis).

To date this year has seen some 70,000 hectares destroyed, according to Effis.


  • AFP