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Thousands return home after Costa del Sol forest inferno
by Staff Writers
Ojen, Spain (AFP) Sept 1, 2012

Almost 4,000 people who fled a deadly forest fire in mountains near the Spanish resort of Marbella returned home on Saturday after the blaze was brought under control, local officials said.

"We have been able to completely stabilise the perimeter of the fire and thus stabilise it," said a statement issued Sunday afternoon by the Andalusian regional authority.

Firefighters were still working inside the perimeter however to douse down hot spots and dousing the ground to cool it down to eliminate any possibility of a fresh outbreak, the statement added.

The blaze had devastated more than 5,000 hectares (more than 12,300 acres) of land and one man, originally thought to be British but now believed to be a 54-year-old German national, perished in the fire.

"There has been some confusion," said an emergency services spokesman for the Andalusia regional authority. "It was very difficult to identify the body."

The charred body had been found in the remains of a small rural home near Ojen on Friday, despite an evacuation order the previous night.

Another five people were injured when fast-moving flames and choking smoke engulfed mountains near the Costa del Sol in southern Spain.

They included a Spanish couple who were hospitalised after suffering second- and third-degree burns over about two-thirds of their bodies.

The other three injured were a 45-year-old mother and her two children, aged 11 and three, who suffered bruises as they tried to take shelter from the flames in a cave. They have since been released from hospital.

"The roads were reopened at 10:00 am (0800 GMT) and all the people living around Ojen were able to return after being evacuated," a spokesman for the Andalusia government told AFP.

In the village of Ojen, life was getting back to normal, mayor Jose Antonio Gomez, told reporters.

Despite the devastation all around, the houses there had not been affected -- but it would take decades for the local environment to recover, he added.

The some 3,000 residents of Ojen had fled along with a number of people in several nearby villages.

Flames had lit up the night sky in the the early hours of Friday as a 12-kilometre (seven-mile) line of fire glowed across the Sierra Negra mountains that overlook the Costa del Sol resort.

Around 400 people -- firefighters and emergency military personnel, backed by 14 planes and helicopters -- had battled through the night to douse the inferno, which was fanned by warm, dry winds in southern Spain, officials said.

Marbella's beaches and vibrant night life attract about 1.5 million foreign tourists a year, mostly Britons but also Nordic visitors and Germans, French, Italians, Dutch and Belgians.

Spain is at particularly high risk of fires this summer after suffering its driest winter in 70 years, and blazes have broken out in various parts of the country in recent days.

Flames destroyed more than 153,000 hectares (378,000 acres) of land between January 1 and August 26, three times the amount during the same time last year and the highest amount in a decade, according to agriculture ministry figures.


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French boy admits to setting massive forest fire
Marseille, France (AFP) Aug 27, 2012
A 14-year-old French boy has admitted to setting a massive forest fire that continued to blaze in southern France on Monday, prosecutors said. The boy was detained on Sunday after the fire broke out close to the village of Orgon, near the city of Avignon, and was quickly spread by the mistral, the strong wind that frequently barrels down the Rhone valley. He confessed to setting the fire ... read more

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