Strong winds fuel huge forest fire in Spain

MADRID (AP) — A forest fire burning out of control in the province of Valencia, in eastern Spain, has become one of the biggest in the country this year and authorities have deployed 35 planes to extinguish the fire, which is in its fifth day, authorities said Friday.

The flames have already burned more than 19,000 hectares (47,000 acres) along a perimeter of 137 kilometers (85 miles). The rain raised hopes that the fire could begin to be controlled on Thursday, but prevailing strong winds made it very intense, the provincial government said.

Four people were hospitalized after suffering serious burns on Wednesday, when several passengers jumped from a train that had stopped near a brush fire and tried to return amid the flames. The train had inadvertently entered the area of ​​a fire.

The head of the regional government Ximo Puig requested a report from the firefighters to clarify why the train was allowed to proceed through the burning area.

Spain has been hit harder than any other European country by wildfires this year, according to the European Union’s Copernicus ground observations programme. This year, forest fires in Spain have burned four times more land than they did in the last decade.

As of August 31, 43 large forest fires — affecting at least 500 hectares (1,235 acres) — were recorded in the Iberian country, while the average in previous years was 11.

The European Forest Fire Information System estimates that Spain has seen 284,764 hectares (704,000 acres) burn this year: four times more than the average since monitoring began in 2006.

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