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Posts tagged ‘Iberian Peninsula’

Spain PM calls new Catalan secession plans “authoritarian”

July 05, 2017

MADRID (AP) — Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has described as “authoritarian delirium” plans by the ruling parties in the northeastern Catalonia region to declare independence from Spain within 48 hours of a promised referendum Oct. 1, if voters say “yes.”

Rajoy told a business meeting Wednesday that Spaniards and Catalans could rest assured that the “confrontational’ gestures of the pro-independence parties will never win over the democratic state. He was speaking a day after Catalonia’s governing parties presented details of a proposed law to cover the planned referendum. The law says if the “yes” vote wins, independence will be declared within two days regardless of the vote’s turnout percentage.

Spain has pledged there will be no referendum because it violates the country’s constitution.

Spain says fire that threatened Donana park “under control”

June 27, 2017

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s interior minister says firefighters have brought under control a wildfire that threatened Donana National Park, a celebrated conservation wetland and home to the endangered Iberian lynx.

In a note on his official Twitter account Tuesday, Juan Ignacio Zoido says that roads had been reopened in the area and some 250 soldiers deployed to combat the blaze were returning to base. Some 600 firefighters, including the soldiers, have been working to prevent the fire on Spain’s southwestern coast from spreading east to Donana, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1994.

It was not immediately known when the fire, which started Saturday, might be fully extinguished. There were no casualties although some 2,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes and campsites.

Battle resumes to extinguish fire near Spain’s Donana park

June 26, 2017

MADRID (AP) — Spanish authorities were hopeful Monday that dropping temperature and favorable winds would help firefighters battling to extinguish a forest fire on the fringes of the Donana national park, one of one of Europe’s most celebrated conservation wetlands.

“Today is a key day,” Andalusia regional president Susan Diaz told reporters. “Before dawn, (the fire) advanced. There were moments of much difficulty and it was out of control. Today all the news is positive.”

Andalusia’s forest-fire prevention department said the some 550 firefighters had managed to encircle and confine two of the three blazes raging in the area but that a third one closer to the park was still out of control, mainly due to blustery winds.

Spokesman Ignacio Fernandez said the fire “has not affected the park at all” but had damaged protected areas nearby. Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said there were no casualties. There were no immediate details on how much land had been scorched so far.

Diaz said they were not ruling out the possibility that the fire was started deliberately Saturday. The blaze comes a week after wildfires killed 64 people in neighboring Portugal, which like Spain is suffering a severe lack of rain and soaring temperatures.

Donana Nature Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1994. It protects over 107,000 hectares (264,403 acres) considered of extreme ecological value for their mix of ecosystems including wetlands, dunes and woods. It is a key stop for migratory birds and home to a variety of animals, including Iberian lynxes, one of the world’s most endangered feline species.

Park authorities said one of the lynxes, a female called Homer, died as a consequence of the stress after workers tried to get her and other adults and cubs out of a breeding center close to Donana. Enormous efforts have been made to recover the Iberian lynx population in recent years. There are now 483 cats in the wild or in breeding centers, most in southern Spain.

Maximum temperatures in the Donana area were forecast to drop to 33 degrees Celsius (91 Fahrenheit) from close to 40 Celsius in recent days. Authorities also hoped for favorable changes in winds. Some 1,000 people were evacuated from campsites and houses near the town of Moguer, where the fire started.

Moguer Mayor Gustavo Cuellar said 160 people, mostly tourists and agricultural workers evacuated from hotels and farms, had spent the night in a sports facility.

Marchers in Madrid urge Spain to take in more refugees

June 18, 2017

MADRID (AP) — Protesters marched in Spain’s capital Saturday to demand the conservative government fulfill its pledge to give shelter to refugees from war-torn countries like Syria. Braving temperatures that reached 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), several thousand marchers followed a huge banner reading: “We Want To Welcome Them Now! Enough Excuses, No More Barriers.” They marched along the city’s Gran Via street.

Spain has taken in less than 10 percent of the refugees it had pledged to accept by last September. It has relocated or resettled 1,304 refugees, while it promised in September 2015 to take in 17,337 people — 15,888 from camps in Italy and Greece and 1,449 from Turkey and Libya.

In February, at least 160,000 people marched in Barcelona to demand the Spanish government fulfill its commitment on refugees.

Portugal battles to contain deadly wildfires amid heat, wind

June 20, 2017

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Emergency services in Portugal said Tuesday they were making headway in their battle to control a major wildfire that killed 64 people in the central area of the country, but another blaze nearby grew in size and caused concern.

The Civil Protection Agency said about 1,200 firefighters and nine water-dropping aircraft were fighting the deadly wildfire in Pedrogao Grande, which was raging for a third consecutive day about 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Lisbon. Officials said that blaze was mostly contained though still burning fiercely.

Temperatures forecast to reach 43 degrees Celsius (109 Fahrenheit), gusting winds and bone-dry woodland were fueling the blazes, Commander Vitor Vaz Pinto told reporters. Some resources were being diverted to Gois, about 20 kilometers from Pedrogao Grande, where almost 800 firefighters and four planes were battling the flames. Vaz Pinto said the Gois wildfire was “very fast and very explosive” and had forced the evacuation of 11 hill villages.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Antonio Costa ordered an investigation into what happened on Saturday night when the deaths occurred, 47 of them on a road as people fled the flames. Costa’s order asked three questions: whether the extreme weather could explain the scale of the disaster, why emergency services communications at times didn’t work, and why the road where the deaths occurred was not closed.

Protest against bullfights in Pamplona before famed festival

July 01, 2017

PAMPLONA, Spain (AP) — Around 400 people have protested bullfighting in Pamplona, a week before the city hosts its famed festival featuring dangerous bull runs. Holding signs that read in English “Bullfight Is Cruel” and “No Tradition Trumps Reason” in Spanish, the protesters marched Saturday through the city’s old quarter. The route included a stretch of the narrow streets that will be used for the bull runs that have made the San Fermin festival known worldwide.

Tens of thousands of partygoers from Spain and abroad come each year to Pamplona to witness or take part in the early morning bull runs, when crowds of runners risk being gored or trampled as they lead a pack of bulls to the ring where they will be used in bullfights.

The festival runs from July 6-14.

Portugal awaits foreign help to fight deadly wildfires

June 19, 2017

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — More than 1,500 firefighters in Portugal are still battling to control major wildfires in the central region of the country, where one blaze killed 62 people. Reinforcements are due to arrive Monday, including more water-dropping planes from Spain, France and Italy as part of a European Union cooperation program.

Portugal is observing three days of national mourning after 62 people were killed in a wildfire Saturday night around the town of Pedrogao Grande, which is by far the deadliest on record. Just over 1,000 firefighters are still attending that blaze about 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Lisbon.

Scorching weather, with temperatures surpassing 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), as well as strong winds and dry woodland after weeks with little rain are fueling the blazes.

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