Fire crews gain upper hand against blazes in Spain
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Firefighting crews made progress Thursday in their battle to contain dozens of wildfires in Spain as most of the country went back on alert for high temperatures, officials said.
A blaze near the northeast town of Ateca has seen a "positive" evolution, the regional government of Aragon said, having forced the evacuation of 1,7000 people and cut off the motorway linking Madrid to the country's second city of Barcelona.
"There have been some flareups which have been stamped out," the government tweeted.
The A2 motorway linking Madrid and Barcelona, which was cut near Ateca on Tuesday due to the blaze, reopened on Thursday.
"The return of the people who were evacuated to their homes is getting closer, but we must be prudent," the head of the regional government of Aragon, Javier Lamban, told reporters.
In the northwest province of Zamora a huge blaze which killed a firefighter and a shepherd was under control, regional officials said.
Spain was gripped by a heatwave affecting much of Western Europe which pushed temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in some regions last week, sparking dozens of wildfires.
The July 9-18 heatwave was one of the most intense ever recorded in Spain in terms of its geographic extension and duration. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Wednesday that more than 500 people died as a result.
While temperatures eased slightly on Wednesday, meteorological agency AEMET expects the mercury to rise again on Thursday and has issued heat warnings for most of the country, forecasting 41C in the eastern region of Extremadura and 40C in Andalusia in the south.
So far this year around 70,000 hectares (173,000 acres) of land has been ravaged by wildfires, "nearly double" the average during this time in the last decade, Sanchez said this week.
The European Forest Fire Information System says 2022 has been the worst year in Spain for wildfires, with 319 blazes destroying 193,247 hectares since January 1 breaking the country's previous record in 2012 of 189,376 hectares destroyed.