Spain — Four fire fighters lost their lives in a blaze in Cataluña which has yet to be brought under control
Horta de Sant Joan, Tarragona, is in official mourning for the four fire fighters from the Generalitat de Catalunya who died while trying to keep a forest fire in Els Ports natural park away from the town on Tuesday. A day of official mourning was also declared on Wednesday by the Catalunya regional government.
All four who died when they were suddenly surrounded by the flames formed part of an elite unit in fighting forest fires, and were all from the province of Lleida. Their names are given as Jaume Arpa, Ramón Espinet, David Duaigües and Jordi Moré. The two others who were injured remained in a serious condition, and one was said to have suffered complications on Tuesday night, including renal failure. A court in Gandesa, Tarragona, has opened a preliminary investigation into the tragedy.
The fire which broke out on Monday has now destroyed 1,100 hectares and remains out of control, with the flames revived by the high winds affecting the area, and secondary spot fires had broken out away from the seat of the main blaze.
Elsewhere in Spain, three forest fires in Teruel led 1,000 people to be evacuated from their homes, one of which, in Aliaga, had destroyed 2,000 hectares. There were also fires in the Basque Country, and another in Guadalajara, the province where 11 fire fighters lost their lives in 2005. A blaze there caused the AVE high speed service from Madrid to Zaragoza to be cancelled in Soria, and the service between Madrid and Barcelona remained cut on Thursday because of fire in two separate locations. An estimated 3,700 travellers have been affected.
The Interior Ministrys Civil Protection directorate has meanwhile warned of the risk of fire throughout the country in the current weather conditions, which will continue to affect much of Spain over coming days. Their advice to the public is to be particularly careful with discarding cigarette butts and glass bottles. The latter can easily act as a magnifying lens in starting a forest fire.
The good news on Wednesday was that a fireman injured in a fall while fighting a fire in Collado Mediano, Madrid, was recovering well in hospital after fracturing his skull. The blaze was brought under control on Tuesday evening and the 2,000 people evacuated were allowed back home.