Firefighters battle to control Madrid's worst fire in decades

Blaze has already razed 2,000 hectares of land Total of 650 personnel are working to extinguish the flames

A helicopter collects water from a swimming pool to battle the blaze in Valdemaqueda, Madrid.
A helicopter collects water from a swimming pool to battle the blaze in Valdemaqueda, Madrid.Chema Moya (EFE)

The worst wildfire to affect the Madrid region in decades is still raging out of control today, around the towns of Valdemaqueda and Robledo de Chavela. Residents of five housing developments have so far been evacuated from the advancing flames, as well as more than 80 senior citizens from two local retirement homes. Three highways and a stretch of rail track have also been closed.

From the early hours of this morning five helicopters from the Madrid region have joined the battle against the six separate blazes, of which the fire in Santa Catalina hill and Río Cofio are the most worrying.

The fire has now spread along an 18-kilometer stretch of land, and is just 100 meters from Valdemaqueda, according to the mayor of the municipality, Ángel Casado.

The geography of the affected area is making it difficult to fight the blaze, meaning that only methods from the air can be used.

On Monday night 150 reinforcements arrived from the Military Emergency Unit (UME), bringing the total number of soldiers working in the area to 346, of a total of 650 personnel.

Throughout the morning, five planes from the Environment Ministry have also been battling to extinguish the flames.

The fire is the worst seen in the Madrid region for decades, having already razed 2,000 hectares. The evidence suggests that the fire was started deliberately. The authorities are seeking suspects.

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