Wildfires rage across northern Spain after unusual dry spell

Image:A firefighter tackles a forest fire near the Basque town of Berango, near Bilbao, northern Spain, December 28, 2015. REUTERS/Vincent West


MADRID (Reuters) – The Spanish government sent firefighting aircraft on Monday to help douse dozens of wildfires in northern Spain that erupted over the past week after an unusual dry spell.

A spate of fires has been sweeping northern Spain for over a week now, an unusual phenomenon in regions that skirt the rough seas of the Bay of Biscay and are normally rainy, especially in winter.
More than 80 fires were burning on Monday morning across the lush Cantabria region.

In neighboring Asturias, another 30 were still raging, fed by strong winds, while another 19 had been brought under control, emergency services said.

Some forested areas in the Basque Country, which borders France, were also hit by fires, and residents in at least one small town were evacuated overnight before returning home on Monday, emergency services there said.

In Cantabria, where local authorities say flames have burned through some 2,000 hectares in the past seven days, including in national parks, regional administrator Miguel Angel Revilla said most of the blazes had been caused by “delinquents”.

No arrests have been made but authorities appealed for any relevant information from the public.
Several months of scarce rainfall have helped spread the fires across woodland in the north, despite occasional showers including on Monday in Asturias. Towns in the affected regions have been spared so far.

A helicopter pilot died last week in a crash in Asturias during efforts to curb the fires, and a spokeswoman for the emergency services in the region said strong winds were hindering attempts to use firefighting planes there.

Spain is prone to wildfires during the summer months but generally in the more arid, hot southern regions or along the Mediterranean coast.

(Reporting by Sarah White and Angus Berwick; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Copyright 2015 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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