Expats flee Spanish death blaze

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

A firefighter tries to control a raging forest fire in Ojen, southern Spain (AP)

Burnt-out land is seen around a house on top of a hill after a forest fire in Ojen, southern Spain (AP)

First published in National News © by

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.

There were unconfirmed reports that a 78-year-old Briton had been killed.

The Foreign Office said "several hundred" Britons had been evacuated from the popular tourist area, including around 300 who had relocated to shelters. Some 4,000 people in total have left their homes as a result of the fire, which officials said was started early on Friday in the town of Coin.

Andalucia's regional government said the charred body of a British man was found "in a tool shed" near the nearby town of Ojen.

Holidaymakers said the smoke had 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 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."

Jose Luis Ruiz Espejo, a Regional Interior Ministry official, said firefighters suspected arson.

Nearly all residents in Ojen were evacuated and given shelter in sports centres in the coastal resort of Marbella.

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