BARCELONA, SPAIN – Hundreds of firefighters and soldiers battled a wind-fuelled forest fire in Spain on Wednesday amid a Europe-wide heat wave that has sent temperatures soaring to record highs in several countries.
Fifteen water-dropping aircraft were helping firefighters to put out the blaze, which broke out at around 2:30 p.m. (1230 GMT) in the municipality of Torre del Espanol in Tarragona province in the northeastern region of Catalonia, local firefighters said.
The blaze, which spread quickly due to strong winds and temperatures which reached 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) in the area, forced the evacuation of about 20 people and the closure of several roads, the regional government of Catalonia said.
Catalonia’s regional interior minister, Miquel Buch, said the blaze had destroyed 3,500 hectares in just six hours and it could ravage as much as 20,000 hectares before it is put out.
“We haven’t faced a fire of this seriousness in 20 years,” he said in a Twitter message.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wrote on Twitter that he was “concerned about the news coming from Tarragona and the families which have been evacuated.
The fire comes as much of Europe was gripped by a record-breaking heat wave.
Meteorologists blame a blast of hot air from northern Africa for the scorching temperatures early in the European summer, which could send thermometers above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in France, Spain and Greece on Thursday and Friday.