Spanish wildfires drive thousands from homes close to Costa del Sol

People have fled their homes in six more Andalucían towns and villages as Spain sent in a military unit to help tackle wildfires raging close to a Costa del Sol resort.

A blaze fanned by strong winds has driven out almost 2,000 people and killed one emergency worker since it began on Wednesday in the mountainous Sierra Bermeja above Estepona, a popular spot with British tourists and retirees.

Huge plumes of smoke rising above the mountains could be seen from miles away. Footage released by the emergency services showed firefighters trying to contain flames in the dry, wooded terrain.

Evacuees, some elderly, sat around plastic tables in a sports centre in the nearby town of Ronda as volunteers brought in bottled water, chairs and supplies.

“It’s all been very fast and efficient, to tell you the truth, but we’re a bit nervous because we don’t know what is going to happen,” said Abraham Lopez, a computer scientist, who was evacuated from his home in Genalguacil.

Emergency crews also cleared people from the towns and villages of Jubrique, Farajan, Pujerra, Alpandeire and Juzcar on Sunday in the hills where the fire was burning amid high late-summer temperatures. Five other communities were evacuated on Friday.

The fire had an “unusual power and strength” and was advancing in several directions, Alejandro Garcia, of the forest fire agency’s operational centre, told reporters.

The Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, announced the deployment of a military emergency unit to help tackle the blaze. “We will work in coordination and without rest in the face of the fire that is devastating the province of Málaga,” he said on Twitter.

The fire covered more than 6,000 hectares, according to provisional data from the European Commission’s Copernicus satellite, the environment ministry said in a statement.

Andalucía’s regional forest fire agency said 365 firefighters were tackling the blaze, supported by 41 aircraft and 25 vehicles. The regional environment chief, Carmen Crespo, said on Friday the blaze appeared to have been started deliberately and investigators were working to uncover further details.

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