Monday. 27.05.2024

The outbreak of three simultaneous forest fires covering 1,100 hectares has forced the Spanish region of Catalonia to scramble its firefighting resources.

Firefighting services have called out professional teams, as well as helicopter crews, drones and special military units to help fight the blaze.

The flames are spreading in a region that has seen little rain and is in the midst of a heatwave. Strong winds are also stoking the fires.

Most concerns are focusing on a fire in Artesa de Segre, about 130 kilometres north-west of Barcelona. It started on Wednesday and has already consumed about 500 hectares of forest. Firefighters are worried that, if they don't stop it, it will spread into the Segre valley and potentially destroy up to 20,000 hectares of forest.

Farmers in the region have been urged to come out with their tractors to dig trenches, as firebreaks.

Early heatwave

Two other smaller blazes were reported in Corbera d'Ebre and Castellar de la Ribera. Each has destroyed about 300 hectares of forested land.

Spain has been hit hard by an unusually early and long heatwave, with much of the country experiencing temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius since the weekend. More than 19,000 hectares of forest and bush land has been destroyed since the start of the year, according to broadcaster RTVE, which cited Copernicus, the European Earth observation system.

That would be about double the area lost on average during the same time period in the years from 2006 to 2021. Scientists say it is an effect of climate change prompted by human activity.

Trio of fires causes alarm in Catalonia as Spain suffers heatwave