Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers declares the territories affected by fires in seven communities to be catastrophic areas

Council of Ministers - 2023.9.5

Moncloa Palace, Madrid

The acting executive has approved the declaration of the area damaged by the fire in Arafo (Tenerife) and 36 other forest fires recorded since 24 June in different parts of Andalusia, the Canary Islands, Castile and Leon, the Autonomous Community of Navarre, Castile-La Mancha, the Valencian Community and Extremadura as areas seriously affected by a civil protection emergency.

Acting Minister for Home Affairs Fernando Grande-Marlaska explained that this declaration opens the way for citizens who have suffered damage to apply for the financial aid necessary to rebuild their daily lives. "This Government has always been clear about the need to leave no one behind when a situation of this kind arises. An emergency cannot be considered over until the last of those affected have been able to go back to their normal lives," the minister stressed.

The aid is granted on the basis of the principle of inter-territorial solidarity and in a subsidiary manner to complement the actions entrusted to the regional governments in the exercise of their powers.

Report on forest fires

The Council of Ministers has analysed the latest report on forest fires, which details the actions of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Science and Innovation in this area.

The report states that 87 fires have been recorded so far this year, 18 of them considered major fires, devastating more than 66,000 hectares throughout the country.

The minister said that no deaths or serious injuries were reported as a result of the fires, although more than 22,300 people had to be evacuated as a precautionary measure.

The acting Minister for Foreign Affairs added that the most important fire was the one that started in the mountains of Arafo on the island of Tenerife, which affected 14,750 hectares in 13 towns and forced the preventive evacuation of more than 13,000 people.

The acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, during his speech at the press conference after the Council of Ministers | Pool Moncloa/José Manuel Álvarez

In the absence of a more detailed assessment, the forest emergencies recorded this year have not seriously affected major infrastructures and there are no reports of incidents concerning telephone or telecommunications services, although the fire in Tenerife caused interruptions in the supply of drinking water in some areas.

As for the Military Emergency Unit, the minister considered it relevant that it has only been activated in eight fires compared to the 55 that required its intervention last year.

Regional and international collaboration

Fernando Grande-Marlaska affirmed that the state is maintaining active all its prevention and extinction resources supporting the autonomous communities. After listing the troops deployed from the bases distributed throughout the territory and the resources for fire prevention, evacuation and investigation, the minister concluded that "the state's fire-fighting system includes thousands of experienced professionals and specialities".

Furthermore, the minister stressed that "we are a recognised power in the world, and via the EU civil protection Mechanism and bilateral requests, we receive numerous requests from other countries to support their efforts against major fires".

In this regard, he recalled that Spain took part in forest fire-fighting operations in Chile last February, in Canada in July, and in Greece in August. He also described the bilateral agreement with Portugal as "satisfactory" because it allows for a reciprocal response to emergencies.

Strengthening climate change prevention

The acting Minister for Home Affairs stressed that the report concludes that we are facing a new scenario linked to climate change, with important implications for public safety because forest fires are becoming increasingly complex, dangerous and difficult to manage, given their intensity and risk.

The Government, said Grande-Marlaska, "will continue to work to reduce the threat that forest fires pose to people, their property and infrastructure, as well as to our natural heritage, which is a treasure that we must preserve at all costs".

The minister also insisted on the need to anticipate possible future scenarios with the help of science to face the coming scenarios resulting from climate and human action.

Aid to combat social exclusion

The Minister for Territorial Policy and acting Government Spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, during her speech at the press conference after the Council of Ministers | Pool Moncloa/José Manuel Álvarez

The Council of Ministers has approved the transfer of €295 million to the autonomous communities to work with third sector entities that provide services to people at risk of poverty and social exclusion, or who are particularly vulnerable. The distribution has been agreed with the communities.

These funds, which come from the 0.7% tax allocation from personal income tax and corporate income tax, represent an increase of 14.4% over the previous distribution.

The spokeswoman for the acting Government, Isabel Rodríguez, pointed out that the Government has already announced the subsidies corresponding to its share of the collection, amounting to €74 million.

Investments in transport

On the investment side, the Government has approved several transport initiatives.

It has also earmarked €147 million for four works contracts in the railway sector. Specifically, €76 million will be devoted to boosting the electrification of the Zaragoza-Teruel-Sagunto line, and €68 million to renovating the Bobadilla-Algeciras line.

The Council of Ministers has also authorised €124 million in aid to the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands for a 100% discount on the price of season tickets and multi-journey tickets for land public transport in these two communities.

Flood risk management

In the press conference following the Council of Ministers, Isabel Rodríguez and Fernando Grande-Marlaska expressed the Government's solidarity with all those affected by the recent torrential rains, especially with the families of the three people who died in the towns of Camarena, Vargas and Casarrubios del Monte in Toledo. The search for other missing persons is continuing.

The Minister for Territorial Policy and acting Government Spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, and the acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, during the press conference after the Council of Ministers | Pool Moncloa/Jose Manuel Alvarez

The Government Spokeswoman reiterated the recognition of all public servants, starting with the state law enforcement forces and agencies, local police and civil protection and emergency teams that have faced the effects of the storms in a large part of the country. He also thanked the public for "their cooperation in very complicated circumstances", and for respecting the instructions of the authorities "to improve the reaction to these inclemencies".

Isabel Rodríguez recalled the recent approval by the executive of plans for flood management, "because we are aware that climate change is here, that it expresses itself in different ways, with hot summers, with severe droughts and also with extreme flooding situations such as those we have experienced".

These plans, which range from prevention and protection to repairing damage, are being implemented with a public budget of more than €2.2 billion. "In this way we are showing the Government of Spain's collaboration with all administrations, especially with local ones," said Rodríguez.

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