THE raging forest fires of recent weeks claimed their first victims in Spain when five members of the same family were found dead yesterday, apparently after trying to flee their home, which was surrounded by flames. “Five burned bodies were found on a road in the forest. It appears as though a family tried to escape their home,” said a spokesman for firefighters in the northeastern Catalonia region. Emergency workers suspect the five may have died or passed out from smoke inhalation then were burned. “It really was an unfortunate case because the house where they lived remained intact. It was not affected by the fire... Everything leads us to believe they left the house of their own will, locked up the house, and probably died of asphyxiation,” Artur Mas, chief councillor of the Catalonia regional government, told reporters. The fire in Sant Llorenc Savall, in Barcelona province in northeastern Spain, has forced about 500 people to evacuate their homes and has burned 1'300 hectares (3'250 acres) of forest, the Catalonia regional government said yesterday. “The fire is not yet under control,” the statement said. Another fire in nearby Gallifa has forced the evacuation of 250 to 300 people, and a third fire was reported to have broken out in l'Albiol, the Catalan government said. Forest fires have affected much of Europe and consumed more than 50'000 hectares in Spain so far this year in a record heatwave with temperatures often soaring above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). The heatwave has claimed more than 20 lives in Spain, officials said. In addition, one Spanish firefighter died of a heart attack while in action. In the central province of Avila, one of the most affected in Spain, a fire that was detected on Sunday has burned some 1'000 hectares (2'500 acres). The blaze was nearly under control when it gained strength from the winds, officials said.

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