A forest fire in southern Spain forced the evacuation of 1,000 people and is threatening Donana National Park, authorities said on Sunday.
The flames have advanced eastward and have entered the park, one of Spain’s most important nature reserves and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1994.
Donana National Park covers over 50,000 hectares (123,550 acres) of wetlands and woods and has a biodiversity that is unique in Europe, although there are some similarities to the Parc Naturel Regional de Camargue of the Camargue river delta in France, with which Donana Park is twinned
The park features a great variety of ecosystems and shelters wildlife including thousands of European and African migratory birds, fallow deer, Spanish red deer, wild boars, European badgers, Egyptian mongooses, and endangered species such as the Spanish imperial eagle and the Iberian lynx.
“The fire has entered in the limits of the reserve and that is where we are focusing our efforts,” Jose Gregorio Fiscal Lopez from the regional Andalusian authority in charge of the environment told Spanish national television.
Susana Diaz, the regional President of Andalusia, said “there’s no risk to the population” after 1,000 people were evacuated from campsites and houses near the town of Moguer on Spain’s southern coast where the fire started on Saturday night.
By midday on Sunday, at least 750 people were allowed to return.
Still, Diaz said fighting the fire was proving difficult due to the hot, dry weather, with temperatures reaching 39°C and shifting winds.
Over 150 firefighters and 21 air units were combating the blaze on Sunday after televised images showed trees engulfed by flames overnight.
“It’s still very early, but we are not ruling out the human factor” as a possible cause of the fire, said Diaz.
She also thanked Spain’s King Felipe VI for his phone call of concern about the fire.
The fire comes a week after a forest fire killed 64 people and injured over 150 people in Portugal.