MADRID, Spain (CNN) — Forest fires in Spain havetrapped and killed a couple and forced the evacuation of 400 people, officialssay.
And in neighboring Portugal, eight wildfires scorched the countryside butwith less intensity than the devastating blazes of last summer, firefighterstold CNN on Wednesday.
The married couple in their 60s died Tuesday when their car was engulfed by afire in Spain’s southern Huelva province, said Paco Huelva, emergency servicesdirector in Huelva Province.
The Civil Guard was investigating to determine if arson was responsible forthat deadly blaze or if it was started when a fire to burn garbage got out ofcontrol, a Civil Guard spokesman told CNN.
A total of 420 people were evacuated from their homes in the Huelva villagesof Las Delgadas, Montesorromero and Berrocal and 25 were treated for smokeinhalation, Huelva said.
More than 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) burned and 400 firefighters, backed bya dozen aircraft, were battling the multiple-front blaze, which had spread intoneighboring Seville province on Wednesday.
But Huelva said the fire was expected to come under control later in the day.
In Portugal, eight major fires burned, mainly in an area around Loule andAlmodovar, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Lisbon.
Sixteen other fires were also burning but were considered under control, saidPatricia Gaspar, of the National Fire Coordination Center in Lisbon.
The only injuries in Portugal have been some firefighters suffering fromsmoke inhalation or slight burns to their hands and legs.
One small village has been evacuated and more than 25 people in Portugal havebeen arrested on suspicion of arson, she added.
About 7,000 people, including 1,200 firefighters, along with soldiers andvolunteers, were battling the blazes in Portugal.
Greece sent two firefighting planes, Italy sent one and Spain has beenproviding planes which cross the border for brief periods of time to help,Gaspar said.
Fires in Portugal last year burned 400,000 hectares (988,000 acres) andkilled 18 people.
There was no immediate estimate on the current number of hectares burned, butGaspar said Portugal is better prepared this year to fight the fires because ofimproved coordination among various agencies involved.
“We did a lot of restructuring in terms of prevention and firefightingorganizations,” Gaspar said. “In 2003, three services had mergedshortly before the fires began. This year, we had time to better prepare thedistrict coordination services.”
Temperatures have been upwards of 40 degrees Celsius, with strong winds andlow humidity — a combination that favors a quick advance of wildfires — butGaspar said the forecast starting Thursday was for somewhat lower temperaturesand higher humidity.