A house of which only one maroon wall remains standing; another whose façade is now more black than yellow; one beyond without doors, windows or roof. And so on up to 15, all reduced to ashes and rubble.

Aldea de Alixo, dubbed the ‘cero zone’ of the fires of O Barco de Valdeorras (Ourense) is now a pueblo devastated by las llamas.

His neighbors were astonished at the evolution of the great forest fire that began in Riodolas (Carballeda de Valdeorras) during the storm last Thursday, July 14, when on Sunday, surprisingly, it reached them and devastated everything in its path.

The fire is still active almost a week later after burning 7,500 hectares and dozens of houses in several municipalities and they are already on edge for the fourth day, pending the embers that still emanate from some of the houses and they fear that, if they get lost , reach the part of the village that has survived.

They have received a visit from the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, who, accompanied by the President of the Xunta de Galicia, Alfonso Rueda, has toured the remains of a village until Green Sunday and now “a gray and black barren”, in the words of Marga Pizcueta, one of her neighbors, who rushed her daughters out on Sunday without taking anything but her two cats and food to feed them and, after leaving them safely in O Barco, returned to try to save her village.

Sánchez has arrived in Ourense with 8 active fires between this province and Lugo and when the fire had devastated more than 22,000 hectares and 85 buildings -mostly houses- and had forced the eviction of 1,400 people in 80 population centers.

After touring ground zero of the catastrophe and meeting with those responsible for the extinction operation – in Galicia reinforced by 200 troops from the UME and 100 from the Army -, he warned that “the climate emergency that the planet is experiencing is evidence” and “It is lethal from the point of view of human lives and it is in terms of biodiversity, environmental, social and economic.”

“The challenge that lies ahead of us is enormous”, he acknowledged, and warned that “difficult days remain in Galicia and the rest of Spain” in relation to the fire, given that “the weather forecasts indicate that there is going to be a rise in temperatures “in the entire Peninsula starting tomorrow”. It was just the same warning made by the Galician president, “we have very complicated days ahead of us”.

Before him, Sánchez insisted on the importance of “institutional coordination, of working side by side” and assured that his Executive is doing “everything in our power” so that the evicted people “can return to their homes as soon as possible.” houses, to their homes and can recover their daily life”.

Marga remembers the moments of “anguish” and “panic”. “On Sunday, at half past three in the afternoon, we were eating and we saw a very large light, then a mushroom cloud above Alixo and in half an hour it was attacking the houses in the neighborhood above.”

It brought back images of a similar fire ten years ago in which houses narrowly escaped the fire, but worse was to come. “Imagine having half an hour to plan whether you stay and try to save his house or go and save your life,” she asks.

She has chosen to prioritize her daughters, but her husband stayed and she was soon back. Her husband has cooled and wet the surroundings of their house and finally “with great luck” they avoided the fire, “it surrounded us everywhere and miraculously we were saved”, but 15 other houses did not have the same fortune and they still do not breathe easy. Since Sunday afternoon, with the houses already razed, 14 of them, 16 in the moments of greatest tension, remain on duty.

On Monday morning the flames revived and advanced so fast that “they crossed the river in 2 or 3 hours”, so they fear that the capricious evolution of the fire puts them in danger again.

The 15 houses reduced to rubble were all glued together and with tile and wood roofs that helped spread the flames, so everything happened so fast that they didn’t even have time to think about what they were taking.

An opposition neighbor picked up her agenda and others their animals, but the rest had no choice but to leave everything behind. The “panic” that everything will return and be just as fast is what prevents them from resting and leads them to stand guard day and night.

The tranquility will not be complete until the fire goes out and they know that this moment, in Galicia, may not come for the whole summer. That anger and anguish also leads them to think about how it could have been avoided and they remember that “fires are put out during the winter, with prevention”, and these preventive tasks are not part of the forestry policy.

In Alixo, in addition, he criticizes that extinguishing media did not arrive and only on Sunday they had the help of two firefighters, “the rest, the neighbors had to do it with Civil Protection.”

The fires have already destroyed around 22,000 hectares in Lugo and Ourense since Thursday, savaging the areas of Valdeorras, O Courel and Oímbra. In Folgoso do Courel, its mayor, Lola Castro (PP), follows with “impotence” how “we see our houses and our towns burn” and in O Barco, Alfredo García (PP), looks with fear at the evolution of the wind, which can prevent the flames from gaining control.

While the UME and local, regional and state media strive to control the flames, the triggers are also looked at and the president of the Xunta attributes them to an “absolutely exceptional and unprecedented” atmospheric phenomenon in Galicia, as a result of a situation that weather experts called it “unknown.”

The Galician councilor for Rural Affairs, José González, adds that these fires “caused pyrocumulus clouds that brought with them changes in the weather itself.” Looking ahead to this Wednesday, the high temperatures that can complicate the situation return.

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