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Panic as deadly flames sweep across Galicia

Firefighters in Ourense tackle one of the first blazes last Friday. :: EFE
Firefighters in Ourense tackle one of the first blazes last Friday. :: EFE
  • Over a hundred fires broke out last weekend across northeastern Spain, leaving a trail of devastation and four dead; police say many were started deliberately

Four people died in a wave of over 100 fierce forest fires that destroyed 35,000 hectares of the northeastern region of Galicia last weekend and early this week.

As the flames spread to the parkland on the outskirts of Vigo, the area's largest city with 300,000 residents, people were forced to flee their homes and take drastic measures to defend their property. The city's Peugeot Citröen factory was also evacuated as the fires got nearer.

With the unprecedented blazes, fanned by winds from Hurricane Ophelia, threatening to overwhelm emergency services, it was only the much-needed rain from Tuesday onwards that brought eleventh-hour relief.

Police have said that many of the fires were started deliberately, due to the strange coincidences in the timings of some outbreaks. Some arrests have been made as investigations continue amid suspicions that they were coordinated.

Some villages, such as As Neves, near the Portuguese border, had almost all their land area burned and much property was destroyed.

Of the four people who died, two were elderly residents of Nigran whose van was caught by flames while being evacuated in a convoy. Rescuers could not reach them in time. There were also fires in the neighbouring region of Asturias.

Portugal was particularly badly affected, with 443 fires breaking out on Sunday and over 30 people killed, according to that country's civil defence authorities.