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Cuban firefighters battle raging forest fire

Cuban firefighters, planes and Defence Force helicopters are working to extinguish a large-scale forest fire which has been raging for seven days on the east of the island.

The blaze, which began on Saturday, has consumed large areas and caused extensive damage to forest plantations and coffee crops in the mountains of Pinares de Mayari in Holguin province, 800 kilometres east of Havana.

It has also caused great damage to wildlife and plants, said Reinier Ramirez, a specialist from Cuba's Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment.

"This is considered a large-scale fire and is currently spreading," Ramirez told local television station Telecristal, from Holguin.

Images of trees engulfed by flames, with smoke and fire rising through the foliage, appeared on local television.

The fire is nearing the Mensura-Piloto National Park, which occupies an area of about 8480 hectares.

Local authorities are trying to prevent the fire from spreading beyond the limits of Holguin province to the neighbouring province of Santiago de Cuba.

Cuba had already reported 80 forest fires in January, a high figure according to local authorities.

Pinar del Rio and Artemisa, in the western zone, and Camaguey and Holguin, in the central-eastern part of the country, were the most affected areas.