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Cablegate: Andalusian Fires Ravage 35,000 Acres

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

291654Z Jul 04




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. SUMMARY: Since July 27, forest fires have raged out of
control and burned more than 35,000 acres in the Andalusian
provinces of Huelva and Sevilla. Authorities have evacuated
more than 1,160 people from the surrounding areas affected by
the flames. The 2004 fire season may be one of the worst in
recent years, as to date 40% more lands have been destroyed
by fire this year than in 2003. These fires continue to
threaten environmentally sensitive ecological reserves and
forest lands in the region. END SUMMARY.

2. The largest forest fire in Andalusia in the past five
years, which started on July 27, has devastated approximately
35,000 acres in the region. Authorities have determined that
the blaze began when garbage container fires went out of
control and ignited surrounding brush. The fires have cut
through various national parks and wildlife reserves in the
Andalusian provinces of Huelva and Sevilla and have caused
the evacuation of more than 1,160 people from small towns
located in the path of the fire. Evacuated towns include
Monte Sorromero, Las Delgadas, El Madrono, El Alamo, Minas de
Riotinto, and Berrocal. The only known deaths from the fires
occurred on July 27 when smoke overwhelmed a married couple
as they drove through the area near the start of the blazes.

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3. Approximately 250 fire fighters joined 15 fire trucks, 12
planes, 19 helicopters, and police and fire fighters from the
province of Huelva in fighting the Andalusian blazes. Other
smaller fires in the northern regions of Galicia,
Castilla-Leon, and Asturias, accompanied by the Andalusian
fires threaten to make this one of the worst fire seasons in
recent history. Forest fires this year have already burned
40% more acreage than last year, comparing year to year
figures. The Ministry of the Environment reports that humans
provoke 80-90% of forest fires in Spain, as is the case in
the Andalusian fires.

4. On Wednesday the Minister of the Environment, Cristina
Narbona, called for zero tolerance against individuals who
cause forest fires, and made a plea to the people of Spain to
be more careful when burning fields and with campfires. She
was concerned with the loss of vegetation and wildlife in the
very sensitive Coto Nacional de Pata del Caballo ecological
reserve. Flames threatened the reserve on the afternoon of
July 28, closing in from five different hot points, which
made combating the flames extremely difficult for fire
fighters. The fires in Andalusia continue threatening other
environmentally sensitive areas such as La Sierra de San
Pedro (which sustained heavily damaged by forest fires last
summer) and El Castillo de las Guardas Nature Reserves.

5. COMMENT: Thus far, the GOS seems fully capable of
handling fire fighting efforts. Unlike the Portugese
Government, the GOS has made no request for outside
assistance of which we are aware.

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