Wildfires rage on Spanish holiday isle

A firefighting helicopter dropping water over a forest fire in Valleseco village on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria last Saturday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
A firefighting helicopter dropping water over a forest fire in Valleseco village on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria last Saturday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MONTANA ALTA/TEJEDA • Wildfires raged out of control on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria yesterday, forcing some 8,000 evacuations as flames in some parts rose so high even water-dropping planes were unable to operate, said the authorities.

The fire, the third in 10 days, has forced the evacuation of several villages. It broke out last Saturday afternoon, near the town of Tejeda, and was advancing on several fronts, propelled by a combination of high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity.

So far, the fire is affecting the mountainous central part of the island rather than coastal areas busy with tourists in the summer months.

No fatalities have been reported.

So fierce is the fire in what is part of a Unesco biosphere reserve that in some areas, it was beyond their extinguishing capacities, Mr Federico Grillo, head of emergency services in Gran Canaria, said late on Sunday. "It's a really bad situation."

On the north-western flank of the blaze, flames have risen as high as 50m, preventing ground crew from getting near or water-dropping aircraft from flying above, said an emergency services spokesman.

She added that around 100 people had been "confined" to the cultural centre of Artenara, unable to leave the village in the disaster zone as all possible evacuation roads were too dangerous to take.

Spain has flown military transport planes to Gran Canaria to deploy soldiers to help fight the blaze.

Altogether, more than 700 firefighters and other ground crew, as well as 14 water-dropping helicopters and planes, were working on controlling the blaze, which has destroyed 6,000ha.

With the temperature set to rise, the authorities estimate it could take days before the blaze is brought under control.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2019, with the headline 'Wildfires rage on Spanish holiday isle'. Print Edition | Subscribe