Hundreds of soldiers were deployed to Andalusia on Sunday to help fight a massive forest fire that has forced thousands to flee.
At least 260 soldiers from the Emergency Response Battalion were sent to protect the towns of Jubrique, Farajan, Genalguacil and Pujerra in the province of Malaga in south-eastern Spain.
The blaze, which entered its fifth day on Monday, destroyed nearly 7,000 hectares of forest and forced the evacuation of around 2,500 people.
Nearly 1,500 residents of Jubrique, Genalguacil and four other villages were evacuated on Sunday. More than 1,000 people had already been taken from their homes as a preventive measure around the seaside resort of Estepona, which is very popular with tourists and foreign expatriates.
“We are talking about a fire of unusual power and strength compared to the fires we are used to seeing”, Alejandro Garcia, a firefighter manager, told reporters on the decision to deploy soldiers.
The reinforcement was welcomed, but firefighters like Rafael Fanega, who said the blaze was still “out of control”, called for more boots on the ground to tackle the flames.
“I don’t see enough personnel deployed,” Fanega de Jubrique said after his evacuation. “Some may see it differently, but that’s how I see it.”
A 44-year-old firefighter died on Thursday while trying to put out the blaze.
More than 600 professionals were deployed to fight the fire and come to the aid of residents, according to the regional government of Andalusia. They are supported by water bombers and numerous helicopters.
According to the ministry, the fight against this fire is made difficult by the “peculiarities of the terrain”, characterized by steep slopes, but also by “unfavorable weather conditions”.
Authorities say they have evidence of arson and are investigating.
Garcia also linked wildlife to the global alert, telling reporters: “We have been talking about the consequences of environmental abandonment or climate change for a long time. Today we are living them.”
Devastating forest fires hit Mediterranean countries over the summer, including Greece, Italy, Turkey and Algeria. They were fueled by scorching temperatures.