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FIRE STORM
Forest fire forces 2,000 to evacuate in Spain
by Staff Writers
Valencia, Spain (AFP) Sept 24, 2012


Firefighters battled a forest fire whipped up by strong winds in the Spanish region of Valencia on Monday, forcing the evacuation of about 2,000 people, officials said.

The blaze broke out Sunday afternoon and spread quickly, threatening villages about 50 kilometres (30 miles) inland of the eastern city Valencia, which lies on the Mediterranean coast.

About 2,000 people have been evacuated from villages in the area since it broke out Sunday afternoon and several roads were cut off, Valencia officials said.

Some 500 firefighters on the ground, backed by 27 aircraft, were attempting to get the fire under control, they said.

"We are trying to protect areas of housing," said senior Valencia region government policymaker Serafin Castellano.

"Right now our biggest enemy is the weather, a lot of wind," he told COPE radio.

Dramatic images in the Spanish media showed flames lighting up the night sky and illuminating clouds of smoke that billowed along hillsides just behind houses.

Enrique Silvestre, mayor of one of the evacuated villages, Chulilla, said the situation was "very difficult".

"The wind is not helping at all and the night was terrible," the mayor told Cadena SER radio.

Spain is at particularly high risk of fires this summer after suffering its driest winter in 70 years.

Flames destroyed more than 184,000 hectares (454,000 acres) of land between January 1 and September 16, the largest amount in a decade, according to agriculture ministry figures.

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