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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 August, 2004, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Europe helps tackle Morocco fires
By Pascale Harter
BBC, Rabat

France, Spain and Italy are to send water-bomber planes to Morocco to fight a major forest fire raging in the north of the country.

Morocco's government appealed for help from its Mediterranean neighbours after more than 2,000 hectares of forest had been devoured by flames.

Mediterranean forest fires are common during the hot summer months, but in Morocco they are rare.

This is largely because it has fewer and smaller forests.

Concern

So far no-one has died in the blaze in the region of Sidi Kacem, around 130km from the capital, Rabat.

But as the fire continues to spread there is concern it could reach more populated areas near the capital.

The Moroccan Royal Gendarmerie has been struggling to contain the fire since early Tuesday evening, when the King, Mohammed VI, appealed for international assistance.

On Wednesday morning Canadair planes, more commonly known as water bombers, will arrive from France, Italy and Spain.

The planes can hold more than 6,000 litres, dipping into lakes and rivers to scoop up water and then spraying vast areas of forest.

Specially trained pilots remain on high alert in the Mediterranean countries over summer, when forest fires can be sparked by soaring temperatures.

Hot desert winds have taken temperatures in the north of Morocco up to 43 degrees in the last few days.




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