“A CLIMATE emergency” is how Spanish president Pedro Sánchez, has described the forest fires which have affected the country in recent weeks.
Sánchez visited the devastated area of Bejís (Castellón) on Monday where almost 20,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed by fire.
He said that areas affected by the fires in Bejís, Vall d’Ebo and Les Useres, would, from Tuesday, be declared Disaster Zones (Zonas Catastroficas), the classification enabling them to receive aid.
So far, in 2022, there have been 50 large forest fires incinerating a total of 229,257 hectares of land. Sánchez said that the figure is much higher than it was 10 years ago, in 2012, when 116,000 hectares were burnt. In fact, in just seven and a half months of 2022, flames have already destroyed more hectares of forests than in the five previous years.
Sánchez said we were in the midst of “a climate emergency which needs unity”. He called on all parliamentary groups to abandon their partisan battles and use common sense to fight the fires, the common enemy, together.
Sánchez was accompanied in Bejís by interior minister, Fernando Grande Marlaska and regional president, Ximo Puig, who had previously visited the affected areas in Bejís and the Vall d’Ebo, describing the scenes as “Dantesque”.
The Valencian opposition party PP (Partido Popular) have, meanwhile, been calling for compensation to fire victims to be speeded up. Carlos Mazón tweeted about the importance of an agreement between political groups to speed up help for areas affected by the fires. He also said that contributions of the affected self-employed arable and livestock farmers should be compensated over the next two years.
Passenger train investigation
An investigation is underway into how a train travelling from Valencia to Zaragoza on Tuesday last week (16 August) found itself hurtling towards the flames in Bejís leaving several people injured. On seeing that the train was heading closer to the flames, the driver brought the train to a halt, planning to put it into reverse. However, once the train was stationary, some passengers panicked and smashed doors and windows to escape, which is when they received their burns.
Investigators are now trying to decipher what caused a train to be travelling to the heart of a wildfire and what could have been done to prevent it. According to reports on Cadena Ser radio, the driver acted correctly and at no point told passengers to leave the train, something corroborated by the train’s black box.