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More than 30 aircraft deployed to help tackle major wildfire in Spain

A firefighting airplane over a wildfire near Alcublas in eastern Spain (Alberto Saiz/AP)
A firefighting airplane over a wildfire near Alcublas in eastern Spain (Alberto Saiz/AP)

A wildfire burning out of control in an eastern province of Spain has become one of the country’s biggest this year, with 35 aircraft deployed to help tackle it, authorities said.

The blaze in Valencia – which entered its fifth day on Friday – has already scorched more than 19,000 hectares (47,000 acres) along a 85-mile (137km) perimeter.

Rain boosted hopes it could be brought under control on Thursday but strong winds had made the fire “very aggressive”, the Valencian regional government said.

Clouds of smoke during a wildfire near Alcublas in eastern Spain
Clouds of smoke during a wildfire near Alcublas in eastern Spain (Alberto Saiz/AP)

In neighbouring Portugal, the government announced a nationwide three-day state of alert beginning on Sunday. Portugal is in the grip of a severe drought and has also seen devastating wildfires this summer.

The measure, which grants authorities special, temporary powers such as barring people from woodlands, is a response to forecasts of inland temps above 40C (104F) beginning Sunday in what could be the country’s third heatwave this summer.

Portuguese interior minister Jose Luis Carneiro said the armed forces would provide extra forest patrols on those days. He also announced the Civil Protection Agency would get additional funding to hire another 500 firefighters.

A helicopter drops water near Alcublas in eastern Spain
A helicopter drops water near Alcublas in eastern Spain (Alberto Saiz/AP)

Meanwhile, four people were hospitalised after suffering severe burns on Wednesday when several passengers tried to jump off a train that had stopped and tried to hit reverse amid surrounding flames. The train had inadvertently headed into the fast-spreading wildfire.

Regional government head Ximo Puig has requested a report from the firefighting services to clarify why the train was allowed to proceed through the burning area.

Spain has been hit harder than any other European country by forest fires this year, according to the European Commission’s Copernicus Earth observation programme.

Charred trees after a wildfire near Vale da Amoreira in Portugal
Charred trees after a wildfire near Vale da Amoreira in Portugal (Joao Henriques/AP)

Wildfires in Spain this year have burned four times more land than they did during the last decade.

Up to early August, 43 large wildfires — those affecting at least 500 hectares (1,235 acres) — were recorded in the Mediterranean country, while the average in previous years was 11.

The European Forest Fire Information System estimates Spain has seen 284,764 hectares (704,000 acres) burn this year — four times higher than the average since records began in 2006.