Evacuation orders lifted as Spain wildfire crews gain edge

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“The fire is evolving normally. There are no flames around the bulk of its perimeter,” emergency services in the eastern region of Valencia tweeted, adding that flames did continue to lick at some difficult to access ravines.

Valencia regional president Ximo Puig hailed a “favourable evolution of the fire at Bejis (whose) advance has been contained.”

The blaze is one of almost 400 to have broken out in Spain so far this year amid a series of punishing heatwaves and long dry spells that have devastated more than 283,000 hectares (700,000 acres) of land, more than three times the total area destroyed in 2021.

Areas of neighbouring Portugal have likewise suffered devastation.

The past week has seen hundreds of firefighters battle two major wildfires raging in the Valencia region, until a bout of heavy rainfall offered some respite, almost totally extinguishing the flames in one blaze at Vall d’Ebo near the eastern coastal resort of Benidorm.

However, the blaze at Bejis some 70 kilometres (45 miles) northwest of Valencia city had been threatening the nearby Sierra Calderona natural park after laying waste to almost 20,000 hectares of land.

Officials said Saturday the Bejis fire had affected around 135 kilometres (82 miles) of land and said the preventative evacuation of 2,200 local residents was maintained.

A further 1,500 residents of two villages, Alcublas and Andilla, remain subject to strict confinement as hundreds of firefighters backed by planes and helicopters continue to tackle an inferno which began last Monday.

Police and railway authorities meanwhile are investigating an incident which left a dozen people injured, three seriously, after a train with some 50 people aboard encroached on the Bejis fire.

The driver of the train heading from Valencia to Zaragoza further north, having not been alerted to the danger had to turn back — but not before passengers panicked on seeing the proximity of the flames.

Television footage showed people screaming in terror and calling for help while some broke the emergency windows to escape on foot.

Police, train operator RENFE and state track operator Adif are investigating while the opposition Popular Party have demanded a government response.