Spain says eastern wildfire contained

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Forty-nine passengers on board a train travelling between Valencia and Zaragoza on Tuesday August 16th watched in horror as for two hours they were surrounded by flames near the town of Bejís, which is currently experiencing one of Spain’s worst wildfires this year. 

Upon reaching the forest fire in Bejís, 70 kilometres northwest of Valencia, the train’s conductor decided to stop the vehicle, having not been warned beforehand that the tracks ran directly past the wildfire. 

Footage shared online by some of the passengers reflects their concerns as they approached the area and how upon grinding to a halt, many of them panicked as the flames were only metres away. 

One passenger exclaimed “we have to call 112 (Spain’s emergency services)” as she struggled to gasp for air, while another person commented on how the train should go back. 

“There were around 60 people on board and our lives were in danger at all times,” one passenger told Spanish national daily El Mundo.   

“What we don’t understand is why the train left Valencia in the first place as the wildfire had already started the night before,” the 30-year-old woman added.

The passenger in question has told the Spanish press that she approached the engine driver to ask if it would be possible to go past the blaze, who responded that it would be. 

But the passengers soon noticed that the temperature in the carriages began to increase dramatically, that smoke was entering the train and that the fire was “literally next to them”. 

According to the woman’s account, it was at this point that the engine driver stopped the train, tried to activate the lever to go back but that it appeared to be stuck, at which point the driver “lost the plot completely”. 

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Fifteen people were injured during the incident, six of them with burns and the rest due to smoke inhalation. Two of the passengers suffered serious burns whilst one is currently in critical condition.

According to Spain’s state-owned rail company Renfe and railway infrastructure manager Adif, neither entity was informed that the wildfire in Bejís, which has so far burned more than 6,000 hectares of land, was close to the tracks.

Adif added that the engine driver stopped the train after coming across “an intense amount of ash and smoke” and that she proceeded to contact management for clarification on what to do next.

According to their statement, several passengers got off the train despite their warnings not to do so, in some cases using the hammers to break the windows. It was at this point that most injuries were reportedly sustained. 

Renfe has opened an internal investigation to clarify the events.