Spain Wilts in Driest Winter for 70 Years
Recent social unrest in Spain, including mass demonstrations against austerity programs and cuts to education, is not the only thing fanning flames in the European nation. As Spain experiences the harshest drought in nearly 70 years, farmers fear a terrible growing season and the number of wildfires may reach new heights.
Agence France-Presse reports:
February is barely past but already Spanish farmers are on drought alert as reservoirs shrink, crops wilt and brush fires crackle after the country's driest winter in 70 years.
Spain is used to fires in the summer, but this year they have come early, ravaging woodland, while the general dryness stunts crops and leaves farm animals without grass for grazing.
Brush fires have already swept across 400 hectares in the wooded northwestern region of Galicia.
Near the Galician village of Brocos, the Portodemouros reservoir has visibly shrunk and egg-shell cracks have appeared in the mud.
"We have a very hard drought, spectacularly intense in some territories," said agriculture minister Miguel Aras Canete.
"The water reserves are not at alarming levels, but we are beginning to have a lot of forest fires."
Spaniards emerged from their usual choking summer last year gasping for rain, but over the past three winter months Spain has had average precipitation of just 55 litres per square metre, far below the average of 200 litres.
"We have experienced three winter months with minimal levels of rain in all of Spain -- December, January and February have been the driest since at least the 1940s," state weather service spokesman Angel Rivera told AFP.