Saturday 16 December 2017

Two killed as family jumps off cliff to escape fire

Alan Clendenning in Terrades, Spain

A French family of five plunged off a seaside cliff during a desperate attempt to escape a raging wildfire, with the father and one of his children plummeting at least 20 metres (65 feet) to their deaths, authorities said yesterday.

Flames forced the family and about 150 other tourists out of their cars on Sunday night as most were returning home to France, and the group scrambled down hillsides toward the beach in the border town of Portbou to escape the blaze, Deputy Mayor Elisabet Cortaba said.

The family became separated from the rest of the group on their way down and ended up at the edge of a very steep cliff with only one way out as the fire, fanned by heavy winds, approached them.

They couldn't climb back up because of the fire, so the mother tried to scale down the crumbly cliff-face, but lost her grip and fell, said Tony Buixeda, the town's port manager, who was at the scene in a boat and saw the desperate family atop the precipice.

The family's teenage daughter told other rescuers she jumped, but Mr Buixeda said he did not know whether the rest jumped or fell because he was already swimming toward the mother.

The 60-year-old father died instantly after landing on submerged rocks, and his 15-year-old daughter drowned, Ms Cortaba said.

The mother was in a critical condition yesterday with a back injury, and the son and other daughter did not suffer life-threatening injuries. All were fished from the sea by Portbou boaters and their identities were not released, Ms Cortaba said.

Two other people were also killed by the weekend fires in north-eastern Spain that have burned 90sq km, including one man who had a heart attack dousing flames around his home. They were also French.

Irish Independent

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