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2 jump to death in Spain wildfires; 4 dead

July 23, 2012 at 8:01 AM   |   Comments

GIRONA, Spain, July 23 (UPI) -- One of two wildfires raged out of control in a glamorous northeastern Spanish area Monday, leaving four people dead, including two who jumped to their deaths.

More than 80 teams fought the wildfires, which started Sunday in tinder-dry coastal areas of Catalonia near the border with France and injured more than 20 people, 15 critically, state broadcaster Television Espanola reported.

The smaller fire near the Girona provincial town of Portbou, about 60 miles northeast of Barcelona, has now been contained.

But a larger fire that began in the fishing port and tourist center of Roses is "completely out of control," Catalan Interior Minister Felip Puig told the Spanish newspaper El Pais. "The catastrophe has overwhelmed the response capabilities of the firefighters."

At least 140,000 people in Alt Emporda county were ordered by the government to remain in their homes, authorities said, while 1,300 people were evacuated.

Police also evacuated a camping area of 17 adults and 74 children along the AP-7 limited-access highway on the Mediterranean coast, officials said.

The highway was temporarily closed. Other highways and dozens of local roads remained shut due to the fast-moving flames, officials said.

Almost all lines of communication with France were cut, El Pais said.

Alta Velocidad Espanola high-speed rail service between the town of Figueres and France was reopened Monday after being shut down Sunday, the BBC reported.

The 44,000 residents of Figueres, birthplace of artist Salvador Dali and a museum he designed, were ordered to remain housebound, officials said.

The Roses fire turned northeastern Catalonia's picturesque Hollywood-haven Costa Brava region into a horrific inferno.

At one point Sunday, giant ravenous flames, fed by strong winds from the north gusting to 60 mph, suddenly surrounded about 50 cars traveling on a narrow road high above the sea near the French border, officials said.

Most motorists fled on foot through the mountains and survived, some with serious injuries. But a French family of four got caught in the flames on a towering cliff near Portbou, officials said.

Two of them -- a 60-year-old father and his 15-year-old daughter -- jumped off the cliff to escape the fast-encroaching flames and drowned after suffering multiple fractures when they hit the rocks, El Pais said.

An 8-year-old girl who also jumped off the cliff was hospitalized with multiple injuries, the newspaper said.

A 75-year-old man in the nearby town of Llers died of a heart attack as flames in the yard outside his house surrounded him, El Pais said.

A 64-year-old Frenchman died Monday after being burned over 80 percent of his body.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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