MADRID (AP) — At least 800 people were evacuated in Spain as forest fires blazed Sunday in two regions, with extremely dry conditions worsening the risk of more wildfires during the hottest weekend of the year so far.
Two planes, a helicopter and almost 200 firefighers were dispatched to the province of Ávila in central Spain to tackle two separate fires there, Spain's Military Emergencies Unit said in a tweet. Relative humidity fell as low as 8% in Ávila, according to Spain's State Meteorological Agency, leading to tinderbox conditions.
Images released by firefighters in the region showed planes dumping water onto blazing agricultural buildings, while the Spanish Red Cross tweeted pictures of first responders bringing elderly residents to safety.
The Castile and León regional government evacuated citizens from several villages. The private Europe Press agency reported that more than 500 people were taken to a sports facility to shelter from the blaze as it decimated 5,000 hectares (12,400 acres) of forest.
Jesús Martín, the mayor of Solosancho, one of the villages affected, told Europa Press: "Our mountains have been burned. It's a horrible sensation. Everything is black."
Meanwhile in Spain's eastern Valencia region, an electrical storm triggered a fire that forced the evacuation of Azuébar, a village of 300 people, according to the local government in Castellón. The military emergency unit sent two helicopters and a plane to tackle the blaze.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted: "Solidarity to the evacuated residents, I can imagine their pain and worry," and thanked the emergency services tackling the fires.
On Saturday, Spain set a new provisional heat record of 47.2 degrees Celsius (116.96 Fahrenheit) at Montoro, Cordoba, as much of Southern Europe sweltered under a relentless summer sun. If confirmed, that would exceed the country's previous record of 46.9 degrees Celsius (116.42 F), set nearby in July 2017.
Climate scientists say there is little doubt that climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving more extreme events — such as heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods and storms — as the Earth warms.