Firefighters battle huge blaze near Marbella in southern Spain
- 31 August 2012
- From the section Europe
Spanish firefighters are battling a huge wildfire raging near the wealthy resort of Marbella on the country's Costa del Sol.
At least one person has died and thousands more have been evacuated.
The body of an elderly man was found near Ojen. Rescue workers are searching for his wife.
Evacuations were ordered from near Marbella, Ojen and a camp site at Alpujata, with some 300 British expats among the evacuees.
The British Consulate in Malaga said they had all now left the evacuation centre and were staying with friends or had returned to their homes.
Marbella is famous for its up-market hotels and villas and is a favourite haunt of wealthy foreigners.
Hundreds of firefighters, backed up by emergency military personnel and 31 planes and helicopters, continue to battle a huge blaze that is being fanned by hot, dry winds.
According to the AFP news agency, a 12km (seven mile) line of fire has spread across the high tree tops in the Sierra Negra mountains.
In addition to the dead man, who was found near his home, five people have been treated for injuries, some of them serious.
A 40-year-old woman and her two children tried to escape the fire by hiding in caves in Ojen, a town in the mountains behind Marbella. They were rescued and taken to hospital where they received treatment for minor injuries.
Angel Nozal, the mayor of Mijas, a town between Marbella and Malaga, told El Pais newspaper: "The fire is horrific, with flames 10 to 15 metres high."
The Costa del Sol is one of Spain's most popular holiday destinations and home to a large British expatriate community.
The British embassy said it was working closely with the Spanish authorities and consular staff were deployed to assist those affected.
Much of Spain's countryside was left tinder-dry this summer by a prolonged heatwave. There have been major wildfires in northern Catalonia - near the Pyrenees - and on La Gomera, in the Canary Islands.
Kimberley Stone, a British woman on holiday with her family in the village of El Soto, said the fire approached rapidly on Thursday night, forcing them to flee their apartment.
"As we drove down the hill we went through burning embers that were everywhere," she told the BBC.
"Fires are not uncommon but I have never seen them on this scale before. The wildfire seemed to dip and then suddenly the wind picked up and we saw fire coming towards our apartment."
They drove to El Puerto, spending the night in the car.
Residents of Ojen described panic as the flames forced them to flee without time to gather belongings. "We left just in our clothes, our nerves jangling," said Filomena Gomez.
Evacuees from Ojen are now staying in a sports hall in Marbella.
Gill Williams, a British resident of Monda near Marbella, said an evacuation siren had gone off in the village at 03:00 (01:00 GMT) on Friday.
"The wind has picked up and the fires are coming towards Monda. We are preparing to leave with our dogs, cats and four hens. There has been fantastic support on social media, with all us expats helping out," she told the BBC.
"There was a shelter for stray dogs and cats - there has been so much support that saved a lot of the animals."
The wind speed has dropped since Thursday and the air is more humid, so there are hopes that the Costa del Sol blaze can be contained soon.
The British embassy said it understood the fire was largely under control although an area of mainly uninhabited countryside was still burning.
The fire started on Thursday afternoon in the Sierra Negra area of Coin, near Malaga and has now affected an area of some 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres).
Part of the AP-7 highway was cut temporarily, but other roads are unaffected. It is not yet clear how many homes have been damaged or destroyed.