Ibiza battles biggest wildfire in its history, man detained

Ibiza battles biggest wildfire in its history, man detained

26 May 2011

published by www.channelnewsasia.com

Spain — Police in Spain detained a beekeeper suspected of accidentally starting the biggest wildfire in the history of the holiday island of Ibiza, local officials said Thursday.

Some 200 people have been evacuated from about 80 homes, the regional government of the Balearic Islands said in a statement.

Around 200 guests were also evacuated from the Hotel Paradise Beach in the resort of Portinatx in the northeast of the island on the orders of the local authorities, the front office manager Mariano Ramon said by telephone.

“It was just a preventive measure. We are not in any immediate risk,” he said, adding that the fire was about one kilometre (half a mile) from the hotel.

Fanned by strong winds, the fire erupted Wednesday near the town of Sant Joan de Labritja in the north of the Mediterranean island, a spokesman for the regional government’s environment department said.

“It is the biggest wildfire in Ibiza since records started being kept,” he said.

Defence Minister Carme Chacon, who flew over the affected zone, said some 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) have been burnt.

Police detained a 50-year-old Spanish national of Argentine origin who is accused of starting the fire with a smoker he was using to blow smoke into a beehive, a police spokesman said.

He faces charges of negligence.

“A spark fell at the moment that the fire started,” the spokesman said.

Beekeepers use smokers to pacify bees and protect themselves from getting stung.

Some 300 people, backed by eight helicopters and three planes, fought the wildfire which was fanned by oven-hot winds. The fire has torched mostly pine forest and scrubland and is not near built-up areas.

Chacon another 100 troops would be sent to fight the blaze on Friday.

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