Tue, Jul 24, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Two die after jumping into sea fleeing fire in Spain

AP, MADRID

Parked trucks are seen at the N-II road next to La Jonquera, Catalonia, Spain, where a forest fire started on Sunday for as yet unknown reasons and has halted traffic on several roads connecting Spain to France.

Photo: EPA

Two people jumped in the sea and died as they fled a raging wildfire in northeastern Spain, where flames fanned by strong winds also forced the closure of one the main roads linking Spain and France.

Another person died of a heart attack while dousing flames around his home, while 24 others were wounded, officials said.

Train service in the region was suspended and several of the cross-border roads linking Barcelona with France were closed because of the advancing flames, regional government spokesman Felip Puig said on Sunday.

The two people fell to their deaths as they tried to escape fires that had engulfed cars on a road near Portbou, the regional fire department said.

State broadcaster TVE said several cars had been forced to stop on the highway to avoid driving into sections that were being swept by flames and efforts were being made to reach the occupants.

“The situation on the roads of the area is very complicated,” the fire service said in a statement.

The main highway linking Spain with France through La Jonquera had been closed.

Santiago Villa, mayor of Figueres, which houses the famous Salvador Dali museum, said he had ordered the city’s 44,000 residents to stay indoors until further notice.

The fire service said in a statement that more than 80 teams had been deployed to combat the wildfires, which appear to have started close to the border with France.

The statement said about 13,000 hectares had been consumed by the fires.

The Spanish Interior Ministry said in a statement that it had sent three specially equipped aircraft and an emergency unit from Zaragoza to aid Catalan firefighters.

State broadcaster TVE said in a late news bulletin that high winds were making it difficult for firefighting aircraft to function to their full potential.

Eight of the injured were in serious condition, TVE said.

Spain’s rail company Renfe said in a statement that international high speed trains linking Catalonia with France using the Portbou and Pertus tunnels through the Pyrenees mountains had been canceled.

A north wind called the Tramontana is a regular feature of life in mountainous northeastern Spain and its strong gusts, which can often exceed 160kph, can spread fires rapidly across the heavily forested area.

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