Thousands more people were evacuated from their homes on the Spanish island of Tenerife on Saturday as a wildfire raging in the north remained out of control, though the flames have so far avoided major tourist areas.
The Canary Islands emergency services said more than 26,000 people had been evacuated by Saturday afternoon, according to provisional estimates, a sharp rise from 4,500 on Friday. Eleven towns are now affected.
Fierce flames lit up the sky overnight, and on Saturday helicopters were seen dropping water on areas close to homes where smoke was billowing into the air.
The fire broke out a few days ago in a mountainous national park around the Mount Teide volcano — Spain’s highest peak — amid hot and dry weather.
More evacuations were ordered on Saturday morning due to worsening weather overnight, including a rise in temperatures and stronger winds, regional leader Fernando Clavijo told a news conference.
He said thick smoke was hampering efforts to extinguish the fire from the air.
No homes destroyed
Around 5,000 hectares (50 square kilometres) have been burned so far.
The fire is on a scale never before seen in the Canary Islands, Tenerife council president Rosa Davila told reporters.
She said the priority was to “protect people’s lives.”
The blaze has not destroyed any homes so far, she added, citing firefighters.
In La Victoria, in the northwest of the island, some people who had been evacuated from their homes were receiving medical help.
“The night before we arrived, we had a pretty bad time. Everything was burning… the roofs were full [of ash],” Paulina Fernandez, 58, told Reuters.
A major concern for many evacuees was their animals. Some were forced to leave them at home, while Reuters footage showed others leading their horses to safety.
The island’s popular tourist areas have so far been unaffected and its two airports have been operating normally.
Scorching heat and dry weather this summer have contributed to unusually severe wildfires in Europe — including in Spain’s La Palma island in July — and Canada. Blazes on Hawaii’s Maui island earlier this month killed at least 110 people and wrecked the historic resort city of Lahaina.
Scientists say climate change has led to more frequent and more powerful extreme weather events.
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