Thursday, 19 September, 2019

Gran Canaria wildfire causes 8,000 people to be evacuated

Residents observe smoke billowing from a forest fire raging near Montana Alta on the island of Gran Canaria Residents watch a fire raging near Montana Alta on the island of Gran Canaria Credit DESIREE MARTIN AFP
Patty Aguilar | 20 August, 2019, 19:17

Firefighters are continuing to battle an uncontained wildfire on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, with regional authorities saying around 9,000 people had been evacuated from the area.

By Monday, the fire had entered the natural park of Tamadaba, a pristine pine forest seen as one of the "green lungs" of the island.

"It's a huge forest fire, extremely serious, which happened in a heatwave", and it is still not under control, Canary Islands President Angel Victor Torres told reporters.

Monday saw the publication of a report in Spain which confirmed that from the start of 2019 until August 11, wildfires had burned around 57,700 hectares of scrub, woodland and pasture in Spain, over three times the amount of damage caused in the same period in 2018.

Famous for its beaches and mountains, Gran Canaria and its capital, Las Palmas, are popular European vacation destinations but the blaze was in a rugged inland area known as the central highlands.

The local government said around 14,800 acres had been burned in just 48 hours.

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The exact number of evacuees was unclear on the island that lies at the heart of the Canary archipelago off the coast of northwest Africa. News reports indicate that firefighting aircraft were grounded for a time as flames shot as high as 160 feet into the air, making safe aerial drops of water and fire retardant impossible.

HOLIDAYMAKERS are being evacuated from their apartments, along with thousands of residents, as fires tear through Gran Canaria.

The wildfire, which started on Saturday close to the town of Tejeda, in Gran Canaria, is advancing on two fronts. It has a population of 850,000.

Wildfires are common in southern Europe during the parched summer months but changing habits and lifestyles have made woodlands more vulnerable, experts say.

Gran Canaria emergency chief Frederico Grillo said recent blazes now are much worse - "nothing like those we used to have", when families worked in the countryside and forests were kept more orderly, private news agency Europa Press reported.

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