April 18. 2024. 12:47

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Spain’s Asturias ravaged by fires as authorities blame ‘fire terrorists’


More than 90 wildfires erupted in Asturias, northern Spain, on Friday (31 March). Most of them were started by arsonists, whom the leader of the region called "fire terrorists".

More than 600 firefighters responded to the fires, and many towns were evacuated after police closed roads and highways.

After an unusually dry winter in southern Europe, and rising temperatures caused by climate change, the Spanish government expressed concern that wildfires could flare up again this year.

"THEY ARE BURNING OUR ASTURIAS. "We are dealing with terrorists who are endangering people, towns, and cities," Adrian Barbon (head of the regional government) stated on Twitter.

Over the past two days, emergency services in Asturias (and Cantabria) have already set off dozens of fires. Authorities said that most of them were intentionally set off and fanned with strong winds.

Although multiple investigations were opened by police, no arsonist was ever identified. Arson convictions can lead to up to 20 years imprisonment, depending on the extent of the damage.

Andres Perez (68-year-old resident of Setienes) said he believed the fires were arson, but didn’t know who or what their motivations.

"But we know that it is total destruction, both ecologically, and materially.

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Intentional fires were often linked to pastoralists looking for more grazing land to raise their cattle. 2017 saw the repeal of a law that prohibited cattle from grazing within fire-damaged forests by Asturias.

"These fires unparallelled are devastating to watch as the fires sweep across our land," Oscar Perez (the mayor of Luarca), told TVE state broadcaster TVE.

According to the regional government, this densely forested mountainous area is one of Spain’s most rainy areas. However, fires are quite common in March.

The combination of low rainfall and high temperatures has made northern Spain a high-risk area for wildfires.

According to the weather agency AEMET, Spain recorded its hottest March 29 record on Wednesday. Temperatures exceeded normal levels by seven-to-14 Celsius (44.6-57.2 Fahrenheit).

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