Fire forces expats from Spain homes

Hillingdon Times: Firefighters work to control a raging forest fire as trees are engulfed in flames next to a road in Ojen, southern Spain (AP) Firefighters work to control a raging forest fire as trees are engulfed in flames next to a road in Ojen, southern Spain (AP)

A wildfire in southern Spain has forced hundreds of British expats to leave their homes and find shelter in evacuation centres.

Strong winds have fanned the flames in the Costa Del Sol region, and Spanish authorities suspect the blaze was started deliberately.

One person has died, two others suffered burns and more than 4,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes as a wildfire fanned by strong winds devoured hillsides around the luxurious southern Mediterranean resort city of Marbella.

Regional Interior Ministry official Jose Luis Ruiz Espejo said the fire started outside the mountainside town of Coin, north-east of Marbella. All the residents of the nearby town of Ojen were forced to evacuate as flames swept their valley. Most spent much of the night sheltered in sports centres in Marbella.

The regional government of Andalucia said in a statement that an elderly man's charred body had been found "in a tool shed" near Ojen. Jose Antonio Grinan, president of the regional government of Andalucia said two people were being treated in hospital for burns and bruises. Speaking on Cadena SER radio, Ruiz Espejo said one of the injured was in "a serious condition."

The Foreign Office said "several hundred" Britons have been evacuated from the popular tourist area, including around 300 who have relocated to shelters. The Foreign Office said there had been no reports of any injuries to British residents, nor any requests for urgent assistance.

Holidaymakers said the smoke has caused them to cough, and stopped them from sleeping. Tourist Sara Hesketh told the BBC: "We've all got coughs with all the smoke and stuff and we're all exhausted because none of us have had any sleep. We're just waiting now to go home, really."

An FCO spokesman said: "We are aware of the outbreak of a fire in the region surrounding Malaga. We have deployed consular staff to visit evacuation centres and they are providing assistance to British residents who have had to leave their homes.

"We estimate that several hundred Britons have been evacuated, including some 300 who have been relocated to evacuations centres in the La Cala de Mijas and Calahonda areas. We are working closely with the Spanish authorities who are handling the evacuation centres and communications with local residents."

Spain has seen 580 square miles of land burned in nearly 12,000 wildfires this year. The FCO said it would continue to update the travel advice on the Spain page of its website.

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