Spain: Forest fire in La Palma island forces evacuations

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A forest fire in the Spanish island of La Palma has forced the evacuation of at least 500 people, authorities said on Saturday, in the first natural crisis on the island since a volcanic eruption on 2021.

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The fire started in the early hours of Saturday morning in El Pinar de Puntagorda, a wooded area at the north of the island in the Canaries, as many European cities brace for extreme heat in the coming week.

At least 11 houses were destroyed as the fire advanced, Fernando Clavijo, president of the Canary Islands said on Saturday.

“The number of people who need to be evacuated could reach 1,000. It depends on whether we can bring these strong winds under control,” Clavijo told reporters in La Palma.

About 140 hectares (346 acres) of land had been destroyed by the fire, he added.

Four helicopters and four firefighting units on the ground were battling to bring the fire under control in the island, which forms part of a Spanish archipelago off the coast of western Africa.

Authorities in the island were seeking help from other islands in the archipelago, such as Gomera and Tenerife.

In September 2021, more than 2,000 buildings were destroyed and many thousands of people were forced to leave their homes when lava began pouring out of the Cumbre Vieja volcano.

The eruption continued for three months and ash from the lava coated the surrounding area with a sooty blanket of thick black dust.

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