Couple caught up in raging inferno

AN Exmouth husband and wife, who have retired to Spain, yesterday told of their horror as their home was surrounded by a raging forest fire.

AN Exmouth husband and wife, who have retired to Spain, yesterday told of their horror as their home was surrounded by a raging forest fire.

Former Albion Cafe owners Brian Ray, 58, and his wife Mel, 41, who left Exmouth for the village of Mojacar, Southern Spain, in 2004, have been caught in a state of panic - wondering if their home would escape the raging mountain inferno, which has forced hundreds of holidaymakers and residents to flee for their lives.

The pair had a lucky escape when - with the fire just 600 metres from their home - the wind dropped and changed direction, sparing their home and belongings.

Mr Ray said: "Everyone was in a state of panic by early evening and, as it got dark, the mountain was lit up like a volcano.

"There are lots of houses dotted about on the mountainside and one particular cluster of dwellings opposite us - named La Parata - can be viewed from our roof terrace.

"There are about 20 or 30 houses and two restaurants. In the dark, we witnessed the fire sweep straight through it, which sent a chill down our spines.

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"At the back of our community, there is lot of waste land, which leads on to the campo (field) and then the mountains.

"This gave us great concern so we all got our hosepipes and doused it down for a couple of hours, hoping it would help.

"As the sirens blared and helicopters circled overhead, the fire was getting closer and the police were starting to evacuate people.

"They had loud hailers and were telling everyone to evacuate to the beach. Most of our community fled, but Mel and I couldn't leave our house, so we stayed put with our hoses."

The drama began last week when the mountains of Cabrera to the rear of Mojacar, approximately 100 miles south of Alicante, re-ignited following a blaze, which had broken out 10 days earlier.

Strong, hot winds quickly fanned the flames and coupled with the region being in the middle of a heat wave - with temperatures in the 40s and no rainfall for several months - the blaze quickly took hold of the parched land.

Police ordered the whole town of 5,000 to evacuate to a nearby beach as flames started to engulf homes on the outskirts. The emergency services declared the area a 'disaster zone'.

Five firemen were killed in the two-day battle to bring the blaze under control.

Mr Ray said Coronation Street actress Ann Kirkbride, who plays Deidre in the show, was one of hundreds of 'devastated' people to lose their homes.

He said: "There was a strong wind blowing over from Africa, known locally as the Sirrocco. I can only describe it as someone blasting you with an ultra-strong hair dryer. You did not want to be out in it.

"Suddenly, at about 3pm on Thursday, the mountain behind us was ablaze again, but this time the wind was blowing it towards us on the playa (beach) and the old village of Mojacar.

"We live in a community and have the mountains behind us and the sea in front, across the road. We knew the worst that could happen to us would be to lose the house.

"We popped into our local taberna at about 6pm, where elderly Spanish ladies had been evacuated from the old village with their grandchildren.

"They were crying and all we could do was give them a hug for support.