9,000 people evacuated after massive tyre fire near Madrid
More than 9,000 people have been evacuated from a large apartment complex near Madrid after a raging fire at a tyre dump sent toxic clouds of black smoke into the sky, Spanish officials said.
About 8,000 apartment dwellers had already left their homes in Sesena 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 six 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 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 roads run 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 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.