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Thousands evacuated after massive wildfire engulfs eastern Spain

Aerial images of the fire originated in Villanueva de Viver. (Photo by Cadena Ser)

More than a thousand people have been forced to evacuate homes after a forest fire blazed in eastern Spain, and has already devastated nearly 1,000 hectares of land.

In the early afternoon of Thursday, a fire started in Villanueva de Viver, a small town in Castellón, in the Valencia region, that later spread to the province of Teruel, in Aragon.

According to the Valencia rescue service, four hundred firefighters, rescuers and soldiers, fifteen planes, seaplanes and helicopters fought against the fire until nightfall, and later suspended their operations.

Municipal sources assured that the eviction had taken place "very quickly" due to the emergency situation, for this reason, the Ministry of Health has mobilized a field hospital and the Red Cross has managed the qualification of a shelter in Segorbe, with capacity for 600 people, as reported by Emergencies.

The winter of 2022-23 was the second warmest and dry winter witnessed by the Northern Hemisphere, according to what EU scientists said on March 8.

In western and south-Eastern Europe it was drier than average over the winter, while the month of February saw record low levels of soil moisture in some areas, the scientists said.

“We had very dry months, without any rain,” the authorities explained.

The Spanish regions of Valencia and Aragon hold a complicated and ravine topography reflecting a large forest mass, in addition, with significant "hydric stress", resulting in the blockade of the vegetative cycle.

And adding to it, the lack of rain has exacerbated the virulence and contributed to the rate at which the flames had spread.

According to the European Commission's European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS)’s data, last year happened to be the worst year for Spain for forest fires, and made it the most affected European country.

In 2022, 493 blazes occurred that lead to the destruction of 307,000 hectares (759,000 acres) of land.

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