14 May 2016

Toxic tyre dump fire triggers mass evacuation

9:16 am on 14 May 2016

A toxic cloud has forced the evacuation of thousands of people in Spain after a massive tyre dump caught fire.

Tyres burn in an uncontrolled dump near the town of Sesena, Spain, after a fire brokeout early on May 13, 2016.

Tyres burn in a dump near the town of Sesena south of Madrid. Photo: AFP

Local officials ordered the evacuation of the Quinon de Sesena area, 35 km south of Madrid, where 9000 people live, saying human health may be at risk.

Many residents of Sesena have already left their homes and it is thought that just 1000 people are still there.

Investigators believe the fire was started deliberately in the early hours of Friday morning (local time), and 10 teams of firefighters battled the blaze all day.

A helicopter drops water over tyres burning in an uncontrolled dump near the town of Sesena, Spain.

A helicopter drops water over burning tyres. Photo: AFP

Some schools closed for the day and there have been no reports of injuries.

The Castilla La Mancha government said it was unlikely wind would disperse the smoke from the millions of burning tyres.

A spokesperson said the decision to evacuate had been taken "to avoid risk".

People will be taken to a sports centre and several schools in buses, and ambulances will be made available for sick people to travel in.

A family evacuate a residential area in Sesena, Spain, affected by the toxic fumes produced by tyres burning in an uncontrolled dump near the town.

A family leaving a residential area. Photo: AFP

A pulmonologist, Carmen Diego, told TV channel Antena 3 that inhaling large amounts of the smoke could cause chemical pneumonia and eye, nose and throat irritation, especially in children, old people and those with weak respiratory systems.

The Madrid government said on Friday evening that the city's air quality had not registered any change from the fire in the nearby town.

Picture taken from the Almudena cathedral in Madrid shows a huge smoke column caused by a fire in an uncontrolled dump near the town of Sesena,

An image take from Madrid shows a huge smoke column caused by a fire. Photo: AFP

'Not chance'

The president of the regional government, Emiliano Garcia-Page, visited the town on Friday.

He said: "I've been talking to the two petrol station workers who raised the alarm, and they told me that the fire started on one side of the dump, which makes us think it was not a chance occurrence. Besides, it was not that hot last night.

"But for now we are not drawing any conclusions."

Wheels are stored for recycling in a field in Sesena, near Madrid, on January 09, 2013.

Before the blaze. A picture of the tyre dump taken in January 2013. Photo: AFP

Drivers on roads nearby have been told to keep their car windows up as the smoke may damage their health.

Flight departures and arrivals at Madrid airport have not been affected.

The sprawling dump has attracted criticism from locals and environmentalists for years.

-BBC

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