Hundreds of people have been evacuated and at least 20 houses destroyed by wildfires outside the Costa Blanca resort of Javea, just days before the area plays host to the Vuelta a España.
The stage 19 time trial is set to start in Javea, an area popular with tourists and British expats, where hundreds of people were told to leave their homes, hotels and campsites on Sunday evening.
It is believed that the fires were started deliberately in three different spots between Javea and Benitatxell, spreading quickly down the mountainside towards Javea.
Retiree John Deacon, 75, told the Telegraph: “Huge flames started coming down the hill at about 8pm last night. I left for a friend’s house with what I had on me, no credit cards or anything, and wondered all night what it would be like to be left standing in my underpants wondering what to do when it is all gone.”
Tourist Emma Swift said: “The sky has been busy all morning with several planes and helicopters dropping sea water on the main area. It appears there is one very large plume of smoke which they are concentrating their efforts on, but not sure if they have it under control.”
She added: “Most houses use gas bottles for cooking and there have been explosions reported in residential areas since fire started.”
Ms Swift also said that local firemen are reporting that “at least two dozen houses have been completely destroyed but they expect that number to rise significantly."
The fires were started on one of the hottest days of the year, with temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius and gusting winds aiding the spread of the flames.
Winds dropped on Monday, which has reportedly helped firefighters in their attempts to extinguish the flames.
The stage 19 time trial looks to be one of the most crucial of the Vuelta a España, with the 37km route from Javea to Calpe potentially sealing the overall winner. Riders will pass through Benitatxell after 12km of the route as it skirts south to Calpe.
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Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.
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