Spain: 9,000 evacuated after fire rages at ‘tyre cemetery’ near Madrid

  • AP
  • Updated: May 14, 2016 13:56 IST
A man walks across a street between two apartment blocks in Sesena, central Spain. (AP Photo)

Spanish officials ordered 9,000 people to be evacuated on Friday night from a large apartment complex after a raging fire at a sprawling tyre dump sent toxic clouds of black smoke into the sky.

About 8,000 apartment dwellers had already left their homes in Sesena, a central town near Madrid, as the thick smoke poured out from the fire that started before dawn, the regional government of Castilla-La Mancha announced.

It said ambulances were being sent to the complex to evacuate people with health problems who could not leave on their own.

The order was issued because weather conditions were expected to change overnight, raising the risk that the smoke could inundate the apartment complex even as firefighters reported progress in trying to bring the fire under control. The dump is less than 1 kilometre (.6 miles) from the complex.

About 70% of the tyres had burned by Friday night but authorities did not know when the blaze would be completely extinguished, said Francisco Martinez, the regional government’s environmental minister.

No injuries were reported because of the fire, which authorities believe was intentionally set. The smoke plume was visible from Madrid, more than 30 kilometres (20 miles) away. The sprawling tyre dump is thought to be Europe’s largest, Sesena Mayor Carlos Velazquez told the Cadena Ser radio station.

Two water-carrying helicopters doused the vast expanse of tyres throughout the day.

Madrid firefighting inspector, Luis Villarroel, said firebreaks that were created helped restrict the blaze to one active front. By Friday afternoon, the smoke had lost much of its density.

Classes at one school were cancelled and authorities urged drivers to keep their windows closed. Two major highways pass close to Sesena and one was closed to traffic for three hours before being reopened.

Spain’s leading El Pais newspaper reported that the dump holds 100,000 metric tons (110,000 tons) of used tyres.

Known locally as the “tyre cemetery,” it was declared illegal in 2003 because it lacked proper permits. Authorities since then have been trying to figure out what to do about it.

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