Page last updated at 12:48 GMT, Friday, 24 July 2009 13:48 UK

Expats describe 'volcano of fire'


Wildfires in Valencia

Hundreds of British expatriates have been evacuated from homes and hotels in south-east Spain as wildfires cut a swathe through the countryside.

The area around the town of Mojacar in Andalucia is worst hit and several expats have told the BBC News website about their frightening experiences.


Twenty-three-year-old Benjamin Jackson rushed to the aid of a friend when he realised his home was in the fire's path.

"We're just fighting to protect the house and thankfully I think we're winning now," he said on Friday.

"But the pool house is gone and all of my friend's peacocks have been burned. He's very upset.

It was like a volcano was erupting. There were flames pouring down the mountainside in rivulets
Val Rodgers

"We shouldn't really be here. They evacuated us but we came back to try and save the house.

"It's just a cauldron and we don't want to risk the house burning down, so we're staying here."

Spanish authorities have cut off public water supplies to conserve them for the fire-fighting effort, but that is making Mr Jackson's job even harder.

"I guess it's because they don't want people panicking and using water if they don't really need to," he said.

"But my friend has got hundreds of eucalyptus and pine trees and once they start burning you just can't stop them. The hot ashes of the pool house are smouldering and every time we leave them they catch fire again.

Fires burning in Mojacar, Spain
Spanish officials say the fires may have been started deliberately

"We're just having to go with buckets to neighbours' pools to get water. It's a terrible job because it's still so hot.

"My friend has had to take his neighbour to hospital because she's got bad asthma and the smoke is affecting her.

"Her car blew up last night when the fire reached it."

Mr Jackson said he understood that both the campsite and cemetery in Mojacar had been badly damaged by the fire.

"Yesterday was about 44 degrees," he said.

"It's like a horror film round here.

"As far as you can see basically everything has burned down."


"As I speak to you now, things have calmed down a bit, but last night they were catastrophic," 76-year-old Joan Ould told the BBC.

"We had three fires raging right behind our urbanisation. It's the second time in 10 days."

We were just hoping and praying it didn't come any closer
Joan Ould

Mrs Ould and her husband live in a community of about 30 apartments on a hillside above Mojacar.

Both elderly, they have relied on younger neighbours for help.

"The fire was so close last night, it was getting really dangerous," she said.

"Unfortunately, our house is on the end and we've got a piece of waste ground beside us that's as dry as a tinder box. Our neighbour spent hours dousing it with water to try to stop it catching fire.

"We were just hoping and praying it didn't come any closer. It was very frightening.

"Our neighbour stayed up all night keeping watch in case we needed to get out of the building."

Mrs Ould said the temperatures on Thursday were unprecedented.

"It's just been so hot. When you went outside it was like sticking your head in an oven," she said.

Fires burning in Mojacar, Spain
Residents have been forced to leave their homes as the flames approached

"And the wind. It was so hot and it was blowing the fire towards the beach and the hotels. They all had to be evacuated - people spent the night on the beach.

"Mojacar was absolutely engulfed in smoke, there are probably people suffering from smoke inhalation.

"Right now, there are still helicopters overhead all the time and the sound of ambulances.

"There's a slightly cooler breeze today, so we're just keeping our fingers crossed. It really was scary."


Sixty-eight-year-old Val and her husband Terry, 72, live in an area opposite the fire, but it still came close enough to leave them shaken.

"It started about three o'clock, and by later in the evening it was like a volcano was erupting," she said.

Evacuated expats and holidaymakers in Mojacar, Spain
Expats and holidaymakers spent the night outside after being evacuated

"There were flames pouring down the mountainside in rivulets, just like a volcano.

"It was heartbreaking, seeing so much destroyed.

"People are definitely frightened. Some of them only just got back in to their homes after the last time they were evacuated."

The Rodgers were due to stay at a favourite hotel next month, but it was destroyed by the flames.

"We were only staying there last week," she said. "It's sad, it was 300 years old, a beautiful building.

"Temperatures have just been incredible.

"I've been here 14 years and it's the hottest I've ever known it. It's unbearable, everything you touch is burning."

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