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News > World

Arson Suspected as Wildfires Spread in Galicia, Spain

  • A number of the fires have edged their way closing in on highly inhabited areas, causing the closure of a number of schools.

    A number of the fires have edged their way closing in on highly inhabited areas, causing the closure of a number of schools. | Photo: AFP

Published 16 October 2017

“Galicia is not burning, Galicia is being burnt. They are terrorists,” Galicia’s President said.

Arson is suspected as winds of 90 kilometers per hour from Hurricane Ophelia fan fires in the Iberian Peninsula, including over 90 in Galicia, Spain, killing at least four people.

Fires Tear Across Portugal, 27 Confirmed Dead

Despite a drizzling rainfall, early Monday morning, 32 “critical” wildfires continued to rage across the region, while another 17 are considered a threat as they approach the four cities along the southern border with Portugal, which is dealing with it own wildfires in the from central and northern regions of the country.

After the continued efforts of 5,000 firefighters and emergency workers failed to stifle the flames, President of the Xunta of Galicia, Alberto Nunez Feijoo, said he believes a number of the fires were set deliberately.

“Galicia is not burning; Galicia is being burnt. They are terrorists,” Feijóo said, saying the fires were definitely premeditated and the situation is “critical.”

"All of Galicia is weeping this morning for our razed hills, but especially for the loss of human lives," he added, saying arsonists are responsible for 90 percent of Galicia’s fires per year.

An announcement from the Ministry of Rural Affairs, alerted resident from Pontevedra, Ourense, Cervantes and Noceda in Lugo to a level 2 warning in risk of life and property.

While away on training, the Spanish third division team Coruxo FC opened their Galician stadium for those fleeing the 105 raging wildfires. With a capacity of 1,500, the team welcomed hundreds of residents forced to seek shelter Sunday after evacuating their homes

"We took the decision immediately after our league game as we saw what the situation was," Coruxo president Gustavo Falque told ESPN FC. "Buildings were evacuated in the surrounding areas of the stadium and we decided to leave the doors open so that hundreds of people could take shelter.”

"One can only imagine the heartbreak of losing your home, your livestock, your animals,” Falque said. “It's terrible. I'm from the Coruxo area and I haven't experienced anything of this magnitude before in my life. We did have a fire back in 1974 that affected Vigo but nothing like this."

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“Yesterday we saw the people of Coruxo and surrounding areas risking their lives in order to battle the flames so that they wouldn't reach the houses. This just goes to show the value of our society," he said, adding that some players chose to remain in the stadium to distribute food and other essentials to refugees.

Another stadium and three hotels have also opened their doors to refuge seekers, while wildfires continue to push across Spain.

"We have not had a situation like this in the past decade. We have never deployed so many means at this time of the year," Feijoo said.

Thirty fires in the northern region of Asturias are closing in on Muniellos’s wildlife refuge, one of the last natural reserves for brown bears.

As a number of the fires have closed in on highly inhabited areas, they have caused the closure of a number of schools, as well as shut down connecting highways and railway stations to Barcelona and Galicia. Reports say at least 20 planes will assist the 350 firefighting units in their tireless efforts.

Galician native, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, expressed his sincere condolences to the victims and traveled home Monday to visit emergency teams at a response center.

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