Spain’s Canary Isles battle ‘most complex fire’ in 40 years

MADRID: The huge wildfire ravaging the Spanish holiday island of Tenerife that has burnt through more than 2,600 hectares of land is the ‘most complex’ blaze to hit the Canary Islands in four decades, the regional government said Thursday.

The fire, which broke out late on Tuesday, has been raging through a forested area with steep ravines in the northeastern part of the island which is part of the Spanish archipelago that lies off the coast of northwestern Africa.
So far, the blaze, which has a perimeter of 30 kilometres (19 miles), has destroyed more than 2,600 hectares (6,400 acres), affecting some 7,600 people, many of whom were evacuated, the authorities said in a morning update.

Early on Thursday, people were evacuated from 10 small villages and hamlets in the area, they said, while also ordering residents to remain in their homes as a precautionary measure in La Esperanza, some five kilometres from the island’s northern airport, Tenerife Norte.
There was no immediate reports of flights being affected.
« It’s been a very difficult night… this is probably the most complex fire we’ve ever had in the Canary Islands in at least the past 40 years, » Fernando Clavijo, regional head of the seven-island archipelago, told reporters.
« The extreme heat and weather conditions… is making the work harder, » he added.
More than 250 firefighters backed by 17 aerial resources, have been drafted to tackle the fire, and troops from the Military Emergency Unit (UME) who regularly help efforts to stamp out some of the most dangerous blazes have also been mobilised.
« A new detachment of UME troops will arrive during the afternoon, » he said, with the defence ministry saying it would raise the number of troops sent to Tenerife to more than 200.
« We are facing a fire the likes of which we’ve never seen before in the Canary Islands, » meteorologist Vicky Palma, pointing to the vast column of smoke from a fire which by Thursday morning had been spreading for 34 hours.
The local authorities have cut off roads leading to the mountains on the northeastern part of the island.
« We ask that the population respect these road closures, » said Montserrat Roman, head of the archipelago’s civil protection service.
The fire broke out after the islands were hit by a heat wave that has left many areas tinder dry.
As global temperatures rise due to climate change, scientists have warned heat waves will become more frequent and intense, with a much wider impact.
In 2022, which was a particularly bad year for wildfires in Europe, Spain was the worst-hit nation with nearly 500 blazes that destroyed more than 300,000 hectares, according to figures from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).
So far this year, more than 71,000 hectares have been ravaged by fire in Spain, which is one of the European countries most vulnerable to climate change.

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