BARCELONA: A forest fire in southern Spain has forced the evacuation of 1,000 people and is threatening a national park famous for its biodiversity, authorities said Sunday.
The flames have advanced westward and have entered Donana National Park, one of Spain's most important nature reserves and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1994. The park, which has over 50,000 hectares (123,550 acres) of wetlands and woods, is an important stop for migratory birds from Africa and Europe and is home to a variety of animals, including the highly endangered Iberian lynx and the Iberian imperial eagle.
"The fire has entered in the limits of the reserve, and that is where we are focusing our efforts," Jose Gregorio Fiscal Lopez from the regional Andalusian authority in charge of the environment told Spanish national television.
Susana Diaz, the regional president of Andalusia, said "there's no risk to the population" after a 1,000 people were evacuated from campsites and houses near the town of Moguer on Spain's southern coast where the fire started on Saturday night. By midday Sunday, at least 750 people were allowed to return to their homes or campsites.
Still, Diaz said fighting the fire was proving difficult due to the hot, dry weather, with temperatures reaching 39 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit), and shifting winds. Over 150 firefighters and 21 air units were combating the blaze Sunday after televised images showed trees engulfed by flames overnight.
"It's still very early, but we are not ruling out the human factor" as a possible cause of the fire, said Diaz.