Raging wildfire on Spanish island of Tenerife drives 26,000 people from homes

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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.

Flames are seen in La Orotava, Tenerife, on Saturday, as a wildfire advances through the forest. Firefighters battled through the night to try to bring under control the worst wildfire in decades on the island, a major tourist destination. (Arturo Rodriguez/The Associated Press)

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.

A man uses binoculars to gaze at the wildfire, from a position in the Tenerife village of La Victoria.
A man uses binoculars to gaze at the wildfire from the Tenerife village of La Victoria on Saturday. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

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.

Smoke is seen billowing from sloping forests in La Orotava on the Spanish island of Tenerife on Saturday.
Smoke is seen billowing from sloping forests in La Orotava, Tenerife, on Saturday. (Desiree Martin/AFP/Getty Images)

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 man in the village of Benijos takes a drink on Saturday, while rescuing a donkey, amid the wildfire raging on the Spanish island of Tenerife.
A man in the village of Benijos takes a drink on Saturday while rescuing a donkey, amid the wildfire raging on the Spanish island of Tenerife. (Nacho Doce/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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