The fire devastating the province of Malaga in southern Spain has left one person dead and five injured while forcing 5,000 people from their homes in municipalities on the edge of the blaze, Andalusian authorities said Friday.
The charred body of an elderly man was found by police in a toolshed in the Malaga municipality of Ojen, which has been evacuated and is being cleared of rubble since they have reason to believe that a second victim might be found there, the officers said.
The fire department attempting to douse the flames in six Malaga municipalities is currently focusing its efforts on the Ojen area, since the flames leaped across the highway that connects that village with Marbella, one of the area's biggest tourist attractions.
The president of the autonomous community of Andalusia, Jose Antonio Griñan, spoke of "suspicions" that the fire in Malaga "could have been set intentionally, and if that is confirmed, authorities will be dealing with a "criminal act."
Griñán told the press that the mountainous terrain makes it difficult to extinguish the fire, though he expressed hope that the blaze will be stabilized at some point on Friday.
The fire has already consumed approximately 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of woodland and is moving through a forest that could endanger the nearby Sierra Blanca mountains.
Deployed in the area are more than 300 firefighters, personnel of 34 police patrols, five backup brigades and 10 fire engines, as well as a mobile meteorology unit for the analysis and tracking of forest fires.
As for air support, 31 aircraft have now been activated, of which 20 are from the regional Andalusian government and the rest belong to the Agriculture, Food and Environment Ministry.
Altogether there are six freight aircraft, five large-capacity helicopters, 13 helicopters for transport and fire extinction, and three coordination and surveillance aircraft fighting the fire, plus 200 troops of the UME military emergency management unit.
The fire is affecting the Malaga municipal terminals of Monda, Mijas, Marbella, Alhaurin El Grande and Ojen, as well as Coin, where the fire broke out, but up to now the exact area burned has not been determined.
The village of Ojen was evacuated completely as were several nearby housing developments.
The Red Cross has established campsites and shelters on lands of the Monda, Mijas and Marbella municipalities.
With regard to the injured, a 58-year-old woman and a man of about the same age have suffered burns over 60 and 65 percent of their bodies, respectively.
Meanwhile a mother, 40, and her two children ages 11 and 3 also received medical attention for contusions, and were given artificial respiration due to the effects of being enveloped in smoke after seeking refuge from the flames in a cave in Ojen.
So far this year, 11 people have died in Spain as a consequence of forest fires, of which all but one were in the months of July and August. EFE