Spain grapples with first major wildfire of year

STORY: Firefighters using 18 planes and helicopters worked throughout the night and on Friday to tackle the blaze near the village of Villanueva de Viver, in the Valencia region.

Emergency services evacuated eight communities, the regional head of interior affairs, Gabriela Bravo, said.

Some of the evacuees were afraid the flames could reach their homes, but authorities said the blaze did not reach the villages so far.

An unusually dry winter across parts of the south of the European continent has reduced moisture in the soil and raised fears of a repeat of 2022, when 785,000 hectares were destroyed in Europe - more than double the annual average for the past 16 years, according to European Commission (EC) statistics.