Spain forest fire forces 2,000 to evacuate

Hundreds of firefighters on Monday battled a forest blaze which forced 2,000 people to evacuate their homes in the Spanish region of Valencia, officials said.

Authorities said late Monday that the fire had ravaged 5,500 hectares (13,600 acres) of land since it broke out on Sunday and 800 personnel were working into the night to put it out.

The regional emergency services said in online updates that the fire had been "stabilised" and roads that were closed for safety earlier would start being reopened.

The fire broke out Sunday afternoon and spread quickly, fanned by strong winds and sustained by high temperatures.

It threatened six villages about 50 kilometres (30 miles) inland of the eastern city of Valencia, which lies on the Mediterranean coast.

"The village itself was not harmed but all the hills as far as you can see from the village have been burned," Manolo Causera, deputy mayor of one of the villages, Gestalgar, told AFP.

About 2,000 people were evacuated from six villages in the area and several roads were cut off, Valencia officials said.

Thirty-one water-dumping aircraft doused water on woodland around villages such as Bugarra as bright flames devoured the dry vegetation, sending up thick grey smoke.

Enrique Silvestre, mayor of another of the evacuated villages, Chulilla, said earlier Monday that the situation was "very difficult".

"The wind is not helping at all and the night was terrible," the mayor told Cadena SER radio.

Spain is at particularly high risk of fires this summer after suffering its driest winter in 70 years.

Flames destroyed more than 184,000 hectares (454,000 acres) of land between January 1 and September 16, the largest amount in a decade, according to agriculture ministry figures.

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