Spain wildfire: Officials hope to tame Catalan blaze
- 24 July 2012
- From the section Europe
More favourable weather conditions have raised Spanish hopes of bringing a deadly wildfire burning in Catalonia since Sunday under control.
Officials in the north-eastern region point to a drop in temperatures coupled with increased humidity and the absence of wind.
"We are reasonably optimistic," said regional interior minister Felip Puig.
An area of some 9,000 hectares (22,240 acres) has been ravaged by the fire, which caused four deaths.
At least six people remain in hospital with injuries.
Mr Puig said the fire had probably been sparked by a discarded cigarette butt.
Spain has suffered its driest winter in decades, making it particularly vulnerable to wildfires this summer.
"The general feeling is that it will be possible to enter into a control phase during the day," the regional interior minister said on Tuesday.
Thousands of residents in 17 towns, including La Jonquera and Figueres, have been ordered by the authorities to remain indoors with their windows and doors shut because of the threat from smoke and flame.
Hundreds of people spent Monday night in emergency shelters, mostly in the town of Figueres, about 20km (12 miles) south of La Jonquera.
A family of five abandoned their car and either jumped or fell off a cliff into the sea near Portbou in a bid to escape the flames on Sunday.
The father, 60, and one of his daughters, 15, were killed while the mother was seriously injured.
"From where they jumped you would have to project yourself about one metre [three feet] to reach the sea," Portbou mayor Jose Luis Salas-Mallol was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.
"They probably did not jump far enough and they hit the rocks below."
A son and a second daughter were rescued from the water and did not suffer life-threatening injuries, another local official said.
About 1,300 people have been battling the blaze, including 500 Spanish and 450 French fire-fighters plus soldiers, police and volunteers, backed by scores of fire engines and 33 planes and helicopters.