Villagers flee homes as Spanish wildfire blazes close to Costa del Sol for fifth day

By Jessica Jones and John Nazca
Tourists take a selfie with clouds of smoke named "pyrocumulus", according to the Andalusian Fire Prevention and Extinction Plan (INFOCA), from a wildfire on Sierra Bermeja mountain, in the background, in Gaucin, Spain, September 10, 2021. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

People fled their homes in six more Andalusian towns and villages on Sunday as Spain sent in a military unit to help tackle blazes raging close to a Costa del Sol resort.

A wildfire fanned by strong winds has now driven out close to 2,000 people and killed one emergency worker since it erupted on Wednesday in the mountainous Sierra Bermeja above Estepona, a popular spot with British tourists and retirees.

Huge plumes of smoke rising above the mountains could be seen from miles away. Footage released by emergency services showed firefighters trying to contain flames in the dry, wooded terrain.

Evacuees, some elderly, sat around plastic tables in a sports centre in the nearby town of Ronda, as volunteers brought in bottled water, chairs and supplies.

"It's all been very fast and efficient to tell you the truth, but we're a bit nervous because we don't know what is going to happen," said computer scientist Abraham Lopez, who was evacuated from his home in Genalguacil.

Emergency crews also cleared people from the towns and villages of Jubrique, Farajan, Pujerra, Alpandeire and Juzcar on Sunday in the hills where the fire is burning amid high late-summer temperatures.

Tourists take a selfie with clouds of smoke named "pyrocumulus", according to the Andalusian Fire Prevention and Extinction Plan (INFOCA), from a wildfire on Sierra Bermeja mountain, in the background, in Gaucin, Spain, September 10, 2021. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Five other communities were evacuated on Friday.

The fire had an "unusual power and strength" and was advancing in several directions, Alejandro Garcia from the forest fire agency's operational centre told reporters.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced the deployment of a Military Emergency Unit to help tackle the blaze. "We will work in coordination and without rest in the face of the fire that is devastating the province of Malaga," he said on Twitter.

The fire covered more than 6,000 hectares according to provisional data from the European Commission's Copernicus satellite, the environment ministry said in a statement.

Andalusia's regional forest fire agency said 365 firefighters were tackling the blaze supported by 41 aircraft and 25 vehicles.

Regional environment chief Carmen Crespo said on Friday the blaze appeared to have been started deliberately and investigators were working to uncover more details.


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