HUNDREDS of people are likely to have been made homeless following the largest fire Malaga has ever seen.
Up to 8,200 hectares of built-up land are reported to have been completely destroyed, with a shocking 224 houses either gutted or seriously damaged.
Around 4,000 people, perhaps half of them foreigners, were ushered into temporary shelters on Thursday night, including hospitals, churches and even football stadiums as the flames engulfed the areas surrounding Coin.
Animal shelters powerless to help their charges were forced to release panic-stricken horses and dogs from their compounds to allow them to flee to safety.
Conflicting reports began to come through by late on Friday about the scale and location of the fires, as well as the number of casualties.
A 78-year-old man who died was initially reported as being British – a claim later refuted by the Foreign Office – while a Spanish couple suffered extensive burns.
More than 600 firefighters tackled the inferno, aided by 28 helicopters and planes.
The damage to wildlife and nature is currently incalculable.
“This is without a doubt the worst fire we’ve ever had in Malaga,” Elias Bendodo, president of Malaga city council insisted.
The Spanish government is now expected to declare the area a disaster zone in the coming days, paving the way for €71 million of humanitarian aid, plus additional EU funding for the clean-up operation.
The money will be put towards the extensive clear-up currently underway, including reforestation projects and the reconstruction of housing and infrastructure.
Emergency coordination centres have been set up in Ojen and Marbella to help residents, many of whom have returned to homes without power.
The blaze began on Thursday night in an area known as Cerro Alaminos de Sierra Negra, near Coin and rapidly spread south and west, aided by strong winds, high temperatures and Spain’s driest winter in 70 years.
And as life begins to return to some degree of normality, expats have been recounting the terror caused by the fires.
Roger and Nancy Holdsworth had their €380,000 two-bedroom villa completely gutted by the fire in La Mairena.
“It went from paradise to hell in just ten minutes. The speed with which the fire took hold was frightening,” said 58-year-old Roger. “I was left coughing and spluttering from the smoke but we are happy to have got out alive.
“But the impact emotionally, practically and financially is going to be terrible,” he added.
Elsewhere, Estrellas de Calahonda resident Gary Joynson, described an eventful night in which his house was in danger of being burnt down and his father-in-law suffered a heart attack.
“The hospital in Marbella told me I could collect him from the hospital at around 2.30am and when I arrived they were ordering everyone not in a bed to leave as they thought they may have to evacuate,” the 58-year-old told the Olive Press.
“We had difficulty getting back to Calahonda because of road blocks. And it was terrifying as my wife kept calling to describe how the fire was getting closer and closer.
“It got to within about 100 metres of the house and we ended up evacuating to the beach.
“When we returned home in daylight a couple of apartment blocks had been burnt, but we were lucky.
“Generally it looked like a scene from World War I.”
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