Gran Canaria wildfire spreads, forces thousands of evacuations | News | DW | 19.08.2019
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Gran Canaria wildfire spreads, forces thousands of evacuations

A fast-moving forest fire on the Spanish holiday island of Gran Canaria has forced authorities to evacuate thousands of people. The government says it could take days before the blaze is brought under control.

A wildfire on the Spanish holiday island of Gran Canaria forced the evacuation of some 5,000 people, authorities said on Sunday. Evacuations extended to at least 40 towns in the vicinity of the town of Valleseco on Gran Canaria island in the Atlantic Ocean archipelago.

The latest blaze broke out on Saturday afternoon near Valleseco. By Sunday afternoon, the fire had spread in two different directions, burning over 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) as it continued advancing, the provincial government said in a series of tweets.

Read more: Wildfires wreak havoc from France to Greece

The fire, which has spread to the mountainous Cruz de Tejeda region popular with tourists for its breathtaking views, is "extremely fierce" and "unstable," said Canary Islands president Angel Victor Torres in a statement.

No fatalities have been reported.

Torres said that more than 600 land troops, two planes and nine helicopters were deployed in efforts to stop the fire (Reuters/B. Suarez)

More than 600 land troops, two planes and nine helicopters were deployed to stop the fire

The 'perfect storm' for wildfires

The island was experiencing temperatures close to 40 degrees Celsius C (104 degrees Fahrenheit), humidity levels below 30% and strong winds, which usually provide what experts call the "perfect storm" for virulent wildfires. With the temperature set to rise Monday, authorities estimate it could take days before the blaze is brought under control.

"The environmental damage has already been done," Torres, the region's president, was quoted as saying by the private Europa Press news agency. "We are facing a complicated situation in which the security of people is the priority now," the official added. "We want this to end without casualties."

Read more: Raging Canary Islands wildfire sparks mass evacuation

At least 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of field and low forest burned in the same area last week.

Wildfires are common in southern Europe during the hot, dry summer months. Nearly half of Spain's provinces were on alert Sunday due to a high risk of fires, according to the country's weather agency AEMET.

Torres said that more than 600 land troops, two planes and nine helicopters were deployed to help stop the fire.

sri/ng (AFP, AP, dpa)

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