Drought in Spain: more fires

From France 24:

Fires destroyed more than twice as much land in drought-hit Spain during the first three months of 2008 as over the corresponding period last year, the government said Tuesday.

17,364 acres (6,945 hectares) of land were lost between January and March as Spain endured its worst drought in decades, figures from the environment ministry showed.

However, the area of forest, scrub and pasture ravaged by flames during the first quarter was about 20 percent less than the average recorded over the past decade during the same period.

About 80 percent of land lost to fires was located in the northern regions of Asturias, Cantabria, Galicia, Leon, Zamora and the Basque Country.

Spain’s water reserves are at 47.6 percent capacity due to a lack of rainfall, the ministry added.

The drought has hurt crops and hydroelectric power production with the northeastern region of Catalonia especially hard hit.

The environment ministry has been trying to reduce the number of forest fires that affect Spain each year through preventative measures such as banning barbecues in the countryside in dry regions, and more effective campaigns to clear roadside garbage and forests of fallen leaves and branches.