Alicante wildfires force evacuation of British holidaymakers


Wildfires just miles from Benidorm in Spain have forced the evacuation of thousands of people, many of them British holidaymakers and expats.

People left their homes and hotels for shelter as the flames burned through the province of Alicante on Sunday night and into Monday morning.

Planes flew overhead dropping water as witnesses described the situation as like a "warzone".

The fire was started deliberately as an act of arson, according to local media reports and officials.

Stephanie Cooper, 21, from Pinosol - around 25 miles from Benidorm, said the air was heavy with smoke and described hearing explosions.

She said many as 2,000 people had been evacuated, including scores of Britons from hotels in the area - and said new blazes started at nearby La Granadella and Cumbre del Sol on Monday morning.

Police told everyone to leave their homes at around 7pm on Sunday night, forcing people to sleep in cars and emergency shelters.

Ms Cooper said strong winds had blown the flames towards her house on Sunday evening.

Pictures show her neighbours' garden scorched black, though the house itself was not affected.

Claire Edwards, 39, a presenter on Overseas FM who lives in Javea, said: "This morning it was like waking up in Vietnam with so many aircraft in the skies."

She said more than 1,000 homes were evacuated and said many fires had been extinguished, but the "dry ground" and "stupidly hot temperatures" had led to further blazes breaking out.

Volunteer firefighter Leo Gomez, from Benissa, said a lot of people were made homeless.

He said: "Luckily I do not have housing in the burned area. The experience was very sad to see how something so beautiful is destroyed before you without doing more.

"The feeling of being there was terror, helplessness, fear, a set of bad feelings by not being able to do more - images that will never be forgotten."

Spanish authorities said more than 200 firefighters, with 65 vehicles, were sent to deal with the wildfire on Monday.

Local authority official Jose Maria Angel said the fire was likely an act of arson and that the hottest day of the year was chosen deliberately.

He added: "Everything appears to indicate that the forest fire that has affected various residential areas around Alicante could have been intentional."