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Spain's emergency services hope rain will help extinguish Catalonia forest fires

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By Euronews with AP
Residents look on as athe forest fire rages near Tarragona.
Residents look on as athe forest fire rages near Tarragona.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Joan Mateu Parra
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Spanish firefighters say that soft rainfall is helping to extinguish a major forest fire in the northeastern Catalonia region.

The fire has destroyed over 1,600 hectares since it began burning on Saturday evening.

Joan Ignasi Elena, the region’s interior councilor, said that emergency workers were hoping to bring the flames under control by the end of Monday.

Ninety percent of the fire was no longer expanding after more than 300 firefighters and members of a Spanish military emergency unit had surrounded it, he added.

Planes and helicopters have been dumping water on the burning hills, while forecast rain is also expected to help.

Residents in two towns had been ordered on Sunday to stay indoors but they were allowed out by the early hours of Monday.

Regional authorities say that flames fanned by high temperatures and strong winds had burned by Monday nearly 1,300 hectares of woodland — most of them in a protected natural area — and over 300 hectares of agricultural land.

AP Photo/Joan Mateu Parra
High temperatures and strong winds fanned the flames in the rural area.AP Photo/Joan Mateu Parra

The emergency teams evacuated at least 168 people from several towns, including many scattered in rural areas.

The affected area, between the towns of Santa Coloma de Queralt and Sant Marti de Tous in Tarragona, is around 100 kilometres west of Barcelona.

Authorities are still investigating the causes of the fire.

Forest fires are a recurring threat in Spain, like in much of southern Europe, every summer. At least half a dozen wildfires were fought over the weekend, including one in eastern Spain’s Albacete province that was only brought under control after burning over 2,500 hectares.

The president of the Catalan government, Pere Aragonés, spoke to the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, about the ecological disaster and has called on citizens to still avoid any activity in Catalonia's natural environment to prevent fires.