July 22, 2012: Smoke clings to the forest as flames burn the forest near the highway in La Jonquera, Spain, near the border with France. The regional officials said wildfires have burned almost 17,297 acres of forest.AP
July 22, 2012: Flames ravage the forest near the highway in La Jonquera, near the border with France, Spain.AP
MADRID – Two wildfires fanned by strong winds killed three people and severely disrupted transportation in Spain's northeast region of Catalonia on Sunday, officials said.
Train services in Alto Ampurdan had been suspended and several cross-border roads linking Barcelona with France had been closed because of the advancing flames, regional government spokesman Felip Puig said.
One person died of a heart attack while dousing flames around his home in Llers and two people had fallen to their deaths when they jumped to the sea as they escaped fires that had engulfed cars on a road near Portbou, the regional fire department said.
The fire service said in a statement that more than 80 teams had been deployed to combat the wildfires, which appear to have started close to the border with France.
"The situation on the roads of the area is very complicated," the statement said, adding that the main highway linking Spain with France through La Jonquera had been closed.
The statement said about 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) had been consumed by the fires and residents in the area had been told to stay indoors until conditions improve.
State broadcaster TVE said several cars had been forced to stop on the highway to avoid driving into sections that were being swept by flames and efforts were being made to reach the occupants.
Santiago Villa, mayor of Figueres, which houses the famous Salvador Dali museum, said he had ordered the city's 44,000 residents to stay indoors until further notice.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement it had sent three specially equipped aircraft and an emergency unit from Zaragoza to aid Catalan firefighters.
A north wind called the Tramontana is a regular feature of life in mountainous northeast Spain and its strong gusts, which can often exceed 100 mph (160 kph), can spread fires rapidly across this heavily forested area.