Portugal: Wildfire on Canary Islands forces 8,000 people to evacuate

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Lisbon | Published: August 19, 2019 6:32:59 PM

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

fire in spain, Canary Islands fire, Spain fire, Canary Islands Spain fire, Tamadaba Natural Park spain, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands President Ángel Víctor TorresA helicopter carries water to fight a forest fire seen in the village of Guia on the Canary Island of Gran Canaria, Spain, August 19, 2019. (REUTERS/Borja Suarez)

An out-of-control wildfire in Spain’s Canary Islands was throwing flames 50 meters into the air on Monday, forcing emergency workers to evacuate more than 8,000 people, authorities said.

The blaze was racing across parched woodlands into Tamadaba Natural Park, regarded as one of the jewels on Gran Canaria, a mountainous volcanic island in the Atlantic Ocean archipelago off northwest Africa.

Famous for its beaches and mountains, Gran Canaria and its capital, Las Palmas, are popular European vacation destinations but the blaze was inland and no hotels were reported evacuated.

Canary Islands President Ángel Víctor Torres said 1,100 firefighters were being deployed Monday along with 14 water-dropping aircraft to battle the blaze that started Saturday afternoon. The local government said around 6,000 hectares had been charred in just 48 hours, villages were evacuated and two dozen roads were closed.

Local fire officials said emergency workers faced huge flames and gusting winds that blew embers into the air, starting secondary fires. Summer temperatures on the island Monday were expected to reach 36 degrees Celsius (nearly 97 degrees Fahrenheit).

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.

He said if the island’s entire annual budget was used for forest fire prevention, it would still only be possible to clear brush from 30% of its woodlands and there would still be large amounts of inaccessible areas due to the island’s steep mountains and deep ravines.

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