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Four firefighters killed battling Catalonia blaze

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Four firefighters were killed and two were seriously injured as they battled a wildfire in a mountainous area of Els Port park near Tarragona in the Spanish region of Catalonia. Several other blazes are also raging across the country.


AFP - Four firefighters were killed and two seriously injured Tuesday as they battled a wildfire in northeastern Spain, while several other blazes raged across the country, local officials said.

The firefighters appeared to have been surprised by a sudden change in wind direction which revived the blaze that has burned in a mountainous area of the Els Port park near Tarragona in the region of Catalonia since Monday.

"They were prepared, capable, qualified firefighters. A change in meteorological conditions caused them to lose their lives," the head of the Catalan regional government, Jose Montilla, told a news conference.

One of the injured firefighters suffered burns to 75 percent of his body while the other suffered burns to 50 percent of his body, a local government official told news radio Cadena Ser.

It was the worst tragedy in Spain involving firefighters battling a wildfire since 11 were killed in 2005 as they fought a blaze that destroyed about 13,000 hectares of pine forest near the central city of Guadalajara.

Dozens of firefighters backed by water-dropping aircraft were involved in the fight against the wind-fueled blaze which has so far ravaged over 800 hectares (1975 acres) of forest and brush.

The flames were threatening the municipality of Horta de Sant Joan, leading officials to evacuate several farmhouses in the area.

Defence Minister Carme Chacon and Environment Minister Elena Espinosa were heading to the site to monitor the battle against the fire, the government said.

Firefighters brought under control another fire raging northeast of Madrid near the town of Collado Mediano that had forced the evacuation of some 2,000 people. The evacuees were allowed to return home in the evening.

A volunteer who was helping firefighters battle that blaze was seriously injured in a fall.

Eight members of a private firefighting firm were injured when their vehicle was involved in an accident near Palencia as they made their way to a blaze.

Firefighters were also battling wildfires in the regions of Cuenca and Ciudad Real which had forced local authorities to close stretches of roads.

Temperatures soared to 41 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of Spain on Tuesday and were expected to remain high for several more days although the strong winds fueling many of the fires are expected to calm.

A man died on Friday in a car that overturned in the smoke and flames in another fire in Catalonia which laid to waste 5,000 hectares of land near the village of La Donzell.

Spain lost 155,000 hectares to fire in 2005 and another 188,000 hectares in 2006 but was spared major wildfire damage in the past two years, the exception being the Canary Islands in the Atlantic which suffered major blazes in 2007.

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