Forest fires continue to rage on Canary Islands | News | DW | 12.08.2012
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Forest fires continue to rage on Canary Islands

Firefighters on Spain's Canary Islands are struggling to contain forest fires as high temperatures and strong winds fan the flames. Thousands of hectares have been ravaged in the worst fires in the region in a decade .

Hundreds of firefighters are battling the forest fires on La Gomera and Tenerife on Sunday as a scorching heatwave continues to sear the region.

Temperatures of up to 39 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) are forecast.

Fires re-erupted on La Gomera on Friday after having already ravaged some 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) of land last week. About one-tenth of the Garajonay national park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was affected.

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Forest fires prompt evacuations in Spain

Aircraft started dropping water again as blazes erupted anew in Garajonay, home to rare subtropical forests, which covered the Mediterranean region tens of millions of years ago but have now largely disappeared.

It could take 30 to 40 years for Garajonay's destroyed areas to recover.

Authorities said the flames have affected more than 500 hectares (1,200 acres) since reviving. Several villages on La Gomera have had to be evacuated.

'Difficult day'

On neighboring Tenerife, flames have spread over some 370 hectares, according to Jan Manuel Santana, the regional head of the Canary Islands emergency services.

"It is going to be a difficult day for everyone, most of all for those fighting the fire," he told a news conference on Sunday.

In Tenerife, 300 people had to move out of their homes in El Tanque. The regional government was reported late on Saturday by the AFP news agency as saying that 4,700 people had been evacuated on the two islands in the past two days.

Last Tuesday, officials said the fires in La Gomera had been contained. A fire last week in La Palma, which is next to La Gomera, was brought under control on Friday. The blaze had affected about 1,700 hectares there.

High fire danger

In the northwestern mainland region of Galicia, officials said the biggest of several wildfires there remained out of control on Sunday morning. They said it had burnt out 1,200 hectares.

Spain has seen more forest fires this summer than at any time in the last decade, around 131,000 hectares of land have been ravaged following the driest winter in 70 years. On top of that, the month of July was much drier than usual, with only half the average amount of rainfall.

Greek firefighters have meanwhile been helped by overnight rain in their battle against flames near Mount Athos, another UN heritage site. The blaze is now said to be under control after burning out 1,500 hectares.

The community of monasteries there - deemed the oldest in the world - is not believed to be affected.

tj,ng/msh (AFP, dpa)

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