After four people died in the forest fires which have been devastating parts of Catalonia since Sunday, the regional government’s Interior minister,
Felipe Puig, said on Tuesday he will do “everything possible” to find the people who allegedly threw cigarette ends out of car windows and started the fires. He has asked people to take photos of such incidents with their mobile phones and send them to the police so that they can trace the owners of the vehicles. Another possibility was getting DNA from cigarette ends but he admitted that would be an extremely difficult solution because the region’s DNA database was still very limited.
Two of those who died were a 60-year-old Frenchman and his 15-year-old daughter who fell down cliffs on Sunday as they fled the flames on the main coastal road near Portbou.
Several other people caught by the fire did the same and were badly injured. The fire near Portbou has now been contained. A Frenchman aged 64, who suffered severe burns, died on Monday. The fourth victim was a 75-year-old man who died after suffering a cardiac arrest in Llers, north-west of the area's main town, Figueres.
Some 1,300 people left their homes in Alt Emporda district and spent the night in sports halls and social clubs, to avoid the fires raging on both sides of the AP-7, highway from Figueres to La Jonquera, while another 135,000 residents were ordered to stay indoors and keep their doors and windows closed.
The road has since been reopened to traffic and the main railway line north to France is also open. But the fire is still raging inland to the west and there are fears that a change in wind direction will drive the flames into the wooded Alta Garrotxa area, parts of which are difficult to reach.
At press time, the western flank of the blaze was still proving hard to contain. About 20 people have been injured fleeing the blazes, while hundreds of firefighters have been deployed, struggling as 90km/h gusts of wind fan the flames. Smoke from the fires even reached parts of Barcelona
A forest fire is also raging in the parched Caceres region of southwestern Spain, again fuelled by strong gusts of wind. There, seven helicopters and two planes are trying to douse the flames with water, on a front two to three kilometres wide.
About 50 people have been evacuated from the village of Cambron in the affected area, which is mostly wild pine forest.