MADRID: Hundreds of firefighters battled a blaze in northern Spain on Sunday that forced hundreds to evacuate and devastated swathes of land, officials said.

The fire was raging in the Aragon region where around 300 firefighters are trying to contain the blaze with the help of helicopters.

At least 1,500 people were evacuated from the rural region that includes a natural park in the Zaragoza province, the regional government said. The Aragon emergency services estimate “thousands” of hectares have been destroyed by the fire.

The “rapid spread” of the flames, stoked by winds, is “critical”, the regional president, Javier Lamban, told media. Spain has faced 388 wildfires since the start of the year, fuelled by scorching temperatures and drought conditions.

The blazes have destroyed 261,930 hectares in Spain this year, more than in any other country in Europe, according to data from the European Forest Fire Information System.

Scientists say human-induced climate change is making extreme weather events including heatwaves and droughts more frequent and more intense. They in turn increase the risk of fires, which emit climate heating greenhouse gases.

Fires have blazed in other European countries including France, Greece and Portugal, making 2022 a record year for wildfire activity on the continent.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2022

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