MADRID, Spain – Palls of dense toxic smoke caused by a massive fire at a vast tire dump south of the Spanish capital Madrid made thousands of people evacuate the nearby areas.
The raging fire was ignited in the early hours of Friday at a tire graveyard, where about five million old tires were dumped, near Seseña municipality in the central province of Toledo, located in the western part of the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha region.
The regional government ordered some 9,000 residents of a sprawling apartment complex to leave their homes, fearing that the smoke could inundate the apartments. At least 8,000 people have already left the complex, situated less than one kilometer (0.6 mile) from the torching dump.
About a dozen teams of firefighters are working to contain the fierce fire and two water-carrying choppers doused the burning tires throughout the day. The smoke plume could be seen from Madrid, over 30 kilometers (20 mile) away.
No injuries have yet been reported in the blaze, whose cause is not exactly known. However, according to local authorities, the fire appears to have been started intentionally.
“Everything points to the fact that this disaster was deliberate,” said mayor of Seseña, Carlos Velazquez, adding that the area had been drenched by rainfalls during the past several days, which makes an accidental ignition unlikely.
Although firefighters have managed to control the fire in some parts of the burning depot, Castilla-La Mancha President Emiliano Garcia-Page warned that the blaze could last “for several days.”
The tire dump, which stretches over some 10 hectares (25 acres), was created in 1990s when a company started dumping old tires in the area. Over the years, the sea of tires continued to grow to make the current three-meter (10-feet) high piles.