RESIDENTS evacuated from Benahavis as a wildfire rages in the hills above Spain’s Costa del Sol have been told they will have to stay away from the town for at least a second night. 

José Antonio Mena, the mayor of Benahavis, made the announcement at the sports centre in nearby San Pedro de Alcantara which is serving as a makeshift emergency shelter.

Mena said the Carpa Municipal, normally a community sports facility, will remain open for at least another night for those to provide shelter for those without alternative accommodation but insisted that no one was permitted to return to Benahavis on Thursday.

Mayor
The Mayor assured evacuees that everything was being done to allow them to return home.
Photo: The Olive Press.

The majority of the estimated 3,000 residents evacuated since the fire broke out on Wednesday afternoon have found alternative accommodation either in hotels or with friends nearby but a limited number of beds have been provided at the centre.  

The blaze has ripped across Pujerra mountain in the Sierra Bermeja, destroying some 2,100 hectares by early Thursday afternoon.

Hundreds of firefighters have been sent to battle the flames, with three firefighters reported to have suffered injuries during Wednesday evening.

Guardia Civil officers drove around Benahavis  using megaphones to order people to leave as the flames came closer on Wednesday evening.

The Olive Press spoke to one British tourist, Sue Barrington from Birmingham, who said when she reached the centre at 6pm on Wednesday all available beds had been taken.

Bed Snip
Most of the people in the centre praised the help they had recieved, though some were understandably dissapointed about long waits for a bed.
Photo:
The Olive Press.

The 66-year-old, from Birmingham, was eventually given a bed at 2.30am.

“It’s been horrible. I have barely got any sleep but I am thankful to have got out in time. The organisation at the centre has been very good, although there hasn’t been any information in English so we have had to rely on people to translate for us,” said Sue, who had been staying in her daughter’s house in Benahavis.

The centre was less than half full when the Olive Press arrived on the scene at 2pm on Thursday, with many of those evacuated saying they were intending to book hotels or alternative accommodation.

The director of Spain’s official fire fighting body Infoca, Adriano Vazquez, told the Olive Press that a meeting would be held on Thursday evening to try and establish a specific time that residents would be able to return home.

The wildfire is just the latest in what is becoming a regular feature in the mountains of the Costa de Sol.

Last September a wildfire that had been set deliberately ravaged some 8,600 hectares across the Sierra Bermeja before it was brought under control thank to the efforts of more than 1,000 firefighters dispatched to the scene.

Though forest fires have always been a feature of the geography here, the European Environmental Agency said climate change was making the problem much worse, especially given that May of this year in Andalucia was the warmest recorded in almost a century.

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