Firefighters near southern Spain's Costa de Sol hoped for a much-need rainfall as their fight against a 'mega-fire' entered its fifth day. The major wildfire has destroyed 7,700 hectares (19,000 acres) since it started spreading and prompted evacuations of 2,600 people.
The blaze in Sierra Bermeja, a mountain range in Malaga province, authorities say is brought on by climate change.
The mega-fire added to Spain's poor rural depopulation, leading to ghastly management of forests and the accumulation of burnable material.
“We are facing the most complex fire known by the forestry extinction services in recent years,” Associated Press quoted Juan Sánchez, director of the southern Andalusia region's firefighting service, as saying.
“We have been talking a lot about the consequences of the abandonment of rural areas and climate change,” Sánchez added. “We are seeing them today.”
Since Saturday, the destroyed area has doubled. Authorities said the flames were contained within a perimeter of 40 kilometers (25 miles) but embers ignited another hot spot soon after. By Monday morning, the wildfire's perimeter had reached 85 kilometers (53 miles).
Spain's weather agency, AEMET, predicted rain in the area later Monday. However, it is not clear if the rainfall would be sufficient to curb the flames.
About 650 firefighters worked in shifts on the ground, assisted by 51 water-dropping airplanes and helicopters.
They were later joined by 260 members of a military emergency unit.
Low visibility due to dust and smoke was blamed for an accident Monday involving a firefighters' helicopter, although none of its 19 occupants were injured. Another 44-year-old firefighter died Thursday while trying to extinguish the blaze.
Residents near the resort town of Estepona were able to return home by Monday, but another 1,700 people remained displaced.
Meanwhile, climate scientists are of the opinion that climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving more extreme events.
So far this year, Spain has experienced fewer fires than the average. However, the number of big forest fires was 19 in the first eight months of 2021 as compared to 14 in 2011.