Wildfire rages near Spanish resort

One person has died, two others suffered burns and more than 4,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes as a wildfire fanned by strong winds devoured hillsides around the luxurious southern Mediterranean resort city of Marbella.

Regional Interior Ministry official Jose Luis Ruiz Espejo said the fire started outside the mountainside town of Coin, north-east of Marbella.

All the residents of the nearby town of Ojen were forced to evacuate as flames swept their valley. Most spent much of the night sheltered in sports centres in Marbella.

The regional government of Andalucia said in a statement that an elderly man's charred body had been found "in a tool shed" near Ojen.

Jose Antonio Grinan, president of the regional government of Andalucia said two people were being treated in hospital for burns and bruises. Speaking on Cadena SER radio, Ruiz Espejo said one of the injured was in "a serious condition."

Ruiz Espejo said firefighters suspected arson as the cause of the fire. Grinan said if this suspicion was proven it would be "a criminal act."

Fernando Fernandez, mayor of the popular whitewashed hillside tourist destination town of Mijas, said many residents had been evacuated, but strong east winds had "fortunately for us, swept the fire westwards, toward Marbella."

Marbella, with its leisure craft port of Puerto Banus, is one of Europe's most luxurious seaside destinations, its normally green hillsides studded with mansions and palaces belonging to aristocrats, the rich and famous.

High profile residents have included Scottish actor Sean Connery, the king of Saudi Arabia and descendants of wealthy European families such as Bismarck and Rothschild.

A dry winter followed by a scorching hot summer has left much of southern Spain tinder dry. The country has seen 580 square miles of land burnt in nearly 12,000 wildfires so far this year.