Wildfires ravage woods in Spain's Catalonia as heat-wave bites

Wildfires ravage woods in Spain's Catalonia as heat-wave bites


Wildfires ravage woods in Spain's Catalonia as heat-wave bites

ARTESA DE SEGRE/TOLEDO, Spain (Reuters) - Three wildfires have laid waste to 1,600 hectares (3,950 acres) of pines and bushes in eastern Spain since Wednesday as a heatwave pushes temperatures close to record highs, regional firefighters said on Thursday.

Hundreds of firemen were on the ground battling the blazes with 120 trucks and a 19 aircraft to fight the flames near the towns of Baldomar, Corbera d’Ebre and Castellar Ribera, Catalonia’s regional fire department said.

Most efforts were focused on Baldomar, where flames threatened 20,000 hectares of woods and farmland. Some isolated houses were evacuated as was a child centre with 54 minors.

There have been no reports of deaths or injuries.

Large swathes of the country face high or extreme risk of wildfire, the state meteorological agency AEMET said.

As of June 5, the area burned in Spain was 34% smaller than the same period in 2021 and the lowest since 2018. However, since last week the combination of hot weather, wind and thunderstorms has sparked wildfires around the nation.

Scorching sun has hit Spain since late last week, in what is the earliest heatwave since 1981, with temperatures surpassing 40 Celsius (104 F) in many parts of the country. Night temperatures are also unusually high at between 20 C (68 F) and 25 C (77 F).

Challenging the heat, hundreds of worshippers and tourists crowded the narrow streets of the central city of Toledo on Thursday morning to attend the traditional Corpus Christi procession, with thermometers almost reaching 40 C (104 F) by the time the event ended.

The town hall handed 10,000 bottles of water and fans to citizens and set up tarps to protect them from the high temperatures, but locals resigned themselves to the heat.

"It is normal (the heat). There are three Thursdays that are brighter than the sun - holy (Maundy) Thursday, Corpus Cristi and Ascension Day. We have to bear it (the heat), you have to live it. It is always warm," Julio Alonso, 58, who owns souvenir shops in front of the cathedral, told Reuters.