5 towns evacuated as wildfire rages in western Spain

OVIEDO, Spain 

Around 300 people were evacuated Monday from five towns in the Spanish region of Extremadura as firefighters struggled to extinguish a “complicated” wildfire.

Local authorities have already called on the Spanish military for help to extinguish the fast-moving wildfire in the lush mountainous county of Las Hurdes.

Images from the locations show flames just meters away from houses.

Around 170 firefighters are trying to contain the blaze, which the mayor of the town of Nuñomoral said was caused by a lightning strike combined with hot and dry conditions.

Temperatures are already hot and dry in Spain, but the mercury is set to rise even further from Tuesday until Friday.

Much of the country, including Extremadura, is already under “extreme” risk for wildfires.

On Monday, neighboring Portugal entered a state of alarm due to the fire risk, which is the highest it has been in 42 years, according to climatologist Carlos da Camara.

During the first Iberian Peninsula heatwave in June, which was one of the earliest on record, wildfires also emerged in several areas.

One in Castile and Leon ended up as the region’s biggest wildfire on record, which scorched 25,216 hectares (62,310 acres) of fields and forests.

This year, large swathes of Spain and Portugal are struggling with droughts.

A recent study published in the journal Nature Geoscience suggests that climate change has made the Iberian Peninsula comprising Spain and Portugal the driest in the last 1,200 years.
Scientists say that is because the Azores High, a semi-permanent center of high atmospheric pressure found in the Atlantic that acts as a “gatekeeper” for rainfall in Europe, has expanded as the planet has warmed.

These large Azores Highs, which have become significantly more common in the industrial era, push rainfall north toward the UK, according to the study, and are linked to drier conditions in the Iberian Peninsula.

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