The worst wildfires in memory in the Malaga region of southern Spain were being brought under control yesterday, leaving a charred and blackened wasteland where there had been fragrant pine forests and holiday homes.
An estimated 4,000 holidaymakers and villagers had to be evacuated as racing walls of flames 100 feet high came dangerously near their villas and houses. Officials warned at the height of the crisis that Ojen, one of Spain’s favourite holiday towns, was at risk of going up in smoke, and evacuated its entire population.
A 78-year old man died in his villa, and several people were treated for serious burns including a couple in their fifties. One family had to hide in a cave to escape flames.
Four hundred firefighters and soldiers battled throughout Friday night, and groups of evacuated tourists watched eight helicopters and airplanes swooping onto hillsides as they “bombed” the fires with water. Giant pillars of smoke could be seen from the harbourside in Marbella, ten miles away, where the yachts of visiting billionaires and Arab princes were berthed.
The centre of the emergency was Ojen, a picturesque collection of white houses popular with British visitors, 300 of whom fled, according to the British consulate. Two Britons were treated for the effects of smoke inhalation but none were thought to have been killed or injured. Many had to abandon possessions in the hurry to escape, including passports and plane tickets, sleeping in municipal sports halls. Yesterday, as the danger receded, most were allowed to return to see if their homes had survived.