Fire near Spain’s border with France spreading rapidly, fed by strong winds

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A forest fire on Spain’s Mediterranean coast near the French border was spreading rapidly on Friday, fed by strong winds and surrounding a popular tourist site.

The blaze in the Portbou area burned around 200 hectares (500 acres) in three hours and could spread over 400 hectares, Catalonia’s regional government said in a statement.

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The Catalan fire service had ordered people not to leave the village of Colera and a campsite at Sant Miquel, said the region’s civil protection service.

The blaze was difficult to extinguish due to the mountainous terrain, senior firefighter Santi Lleonart said in a Catalan government statement.

The wind was making operations harder and the fire had developed multiple fronts that could spread further, while firefighters had not yet reached isolated pockets that were burning, he added.

Portbou, near the Franco-Spanish border, also has a major railway station used by both countries’ networks.

The road leading to the site has been closed to private vehicles to facilitate the movement of firefighters tackling the blaze.

Every summer Colera sees its 500-strong population boosted by an influx of tourists headed for the Spanish beaches. Sant Miguel campsite has a capacity of 720, according to the Catalan authorities.

Improvised shelters were prepared in Colera for those trapped in the area overnight.

Some 230 firefighters from Spain and France backed by aircraft were fighting the blaze, said the Catalan government.

But a French water-bombing aircraft sent to the zone has so far been unable to operate because of the strong winds, a French fire services spokesman told AFP.

The Spanish meteorological agency Aemet reported winds in the region of up to 50 kilometres (30 miles) an hour.

Spain is experiencing a less destructive summer of wildfires than in 2022, when more than 300,000 hectares were devastated, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.

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