At least two thousand people have been evacuated from Spain's popular tourist region of Valencia as the worst forest fires in more than a decade. A huge cloud of smoke could be seen pouring into the country's third-largest city as it continued to spread yesterday. It is thought that between 20,000 and 45,000 hectares of land had been destroyed in two forest fires around 18 miles to the west of Valencia on Spain's eastern coast.



No official estimates have been given of how much land has been destroyed by the fires, but Nasa images show smoke covering a vast area of the region famous for its beaches. The majority of people in the Valencia region, however, were not at risk according to emergency services.



Authorities in the Valencia region said that in the three days since the fires started around 2,000 people have been forced to leave their homes, though many have since been able to return. 

The fires, which are still not under control, began after a week in which temperatures in many parts of Spain soared to close to 40 degrees Celsius, leading authorities to raise to maximum the level of forest fire risk in the Valencia region.

Authorities said preliminary investigations showed one of the fires had been accidentally started by workers in the hillsides around Valencia, and the other by agricultural burning that could not be controlled.

The country has seen 10 big forest fires this year, and around 50,000 hectares of land destroyed in the first five months of 2012, the worst since 2002, according to data from the Environment Ministry.

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