The Spanish government declared Catalonia and twelve other autonomous communities as disaster areas as a result of the serious forest fires that have occurred this summer.
The first Council of Ministers of the political year declared the following communities as areas seriously affected by a civil protection emergency: Castile and León, Andalusia, Aragón, the Canary Islands, Castile-La Mancha, Catalonia, the Valencian Country, Extremadura, the Balearic Islands, La Rioja, Madrid, Navarre and the Principality of Asturias.
"These have been very dramatic situations and we express the government's sensitivity" said the spokesperson and minister for Territorial Policy, Isabel Rodríguez, at a press conference. Rodríguez also announced that the thirteen autonomous communities will benefit from a series of "measures and aid aimed at alleviating personal and material damage" of those affected.
The Spanish government considered that its intervention is "justified" by "inter-territorial solidarity" in view of the "magnitude" of the disasters and the measures that the respective communities have had to adopt. It also argued that when a "definitive estimate of the damage" is available, the regions will receive aid for both individuals and legal entities, as well as municipal administrations.
Minister Rodríguez highlighted the visit of Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, last weekend to the affected areas of Ávila (Castilla y León), and wished to recognise the professionals involved in fire prevention and extinction.
After the Llançà fire, the general director of Fire Prevention, Extinction and Rescue of the Catalan government, Joan Delort, claimed that the Spanish government had prevented the participation of hydroplanes from Northern Catalonia in extinguishing the fire. The Spanish government, made a statement in which it replied that "it was not considered appropriate or necessary to request help from neighbouring France". It argued that it had "repeatedly" raised the possibility of the Catalan government counting with the support of the Military Emergency Unit in order to prevent the fire from spreading and affecting the population.
The hydroplanes issue caused great controversy, and the Catalan services criticized the Spanish government for a certain inaction and lack of response to the fire in Llançà. Now, Pedro Sánchez's government has declared Catalonia a catastrophe zone, due to the numerous fires suffered during the summer. This measure will facilitate many procedures and aid in the burned areas and for the affected population.