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Firefighters contain wildfire near Spanish-French border

The blaze reached the outskirts of Portbou, near the Spanish-French border
The blaze reached the outskirts of Portbou, near the Spanish-French border.

Firefighters from Spain and France succeeded on Saturday in containing a wildfire near the countries' shared Mediterranean coastal border, after winds dropped enough to allow water bomber planes to fly.

But officials in the souther region of Andalucia, further to the west, said firefighters were battling another blaze Saturday.

More than 130 people had been evacuated from several villages overnight as strong winds fanned the flames around Portbou, a hilly forested area on the Spanish side of the border that is popular with tourists.

Spanish forestry rangers said the fire, which started on Friday, had destroyed around 573 hectares (1,400 acres) of land around Portbou, which has a cross-border rail service to France.

An official from the Catalonia regional government said on Saturday afternoon the fire had stopped spreading and the evacuation order hand been lifted.

Residents should still stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel, officials said.

Around 300 firefighters from Catalonia and a dozen French fire engine crews teamed up to tackle the blaze.

They said winds had dropped sufficiently to allow water bombers and helicopters to intervene but could not say how long it could take to bring the fire completely under control.

Weather forecasters said winds would pick up again in the evening, after gusting at up to 100 kilometers (60 miles) per hour on Friday night.

A plane sprays fire retardant over the wildfire south of Portbou
A plane sprays fire retardant over the wildfire south of Portbou.

Fire in Andalusia

Earlier on Saturday the flames had come dangerously close to houses in the Llanca area south of Portbou.

Rail services were restarted between Portbou and Figueras to the south and power was restored to up to 4,000 homes on Saturday, Catalan civil protection officials said.

Regional authorities said an investigation was underway into the cause of the fire.

But authorities in the southern region of Andalusia along the Mediterranean coast said 150 firefighters were battling a new blaze Saturday.

They were contending with high temperatures and strong winds that had forced around 70 people to evacuate, Spanish media reported.

Other residents near the city of Huelva are being urged to remain in their homes, as 17 planes and helicopters were deployed to help fight the blaze in the wooded area, where two main roads had been closed.

Last year, some 500 wildfires 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.

© 2023 AFP

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