Mass evacuation as wildfire sweeps across Spain’s Tenerife Island

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Firefighters struggled Thursday to control a huge wildfire on the Spanish holiday island of Tenerife that has forced the evacuation of thousands of people, local official said.

The fire broke out late on Tuesday and has been raging through a forested area with steep ravines in the northeastern part of the island, which part of the Spanish archipelago off the coast of northwestern Africa.

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The blaze has so far ravaged over 3,200 hectares (7,900 acres) of land, the chief commissioner of the archipelago’s police force Luis Santos told local television.

“It is a complicated fire, with an unusual behaviour,” he added.

Some 3,000 residents in the area have been evacuated and around 4,000 others were ordered to stay indoors due to poor air quality, the regional government said.

“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 archipelago, told reporters.

“The extreme heat and weather conditions... is making the work harder,” he added.

Around 400 firefighters and soldiers backed by 17 water-dropping planes and helicopters have been mobilised to battle the blaze which is threatening six municipalities.

In a message posted on social media, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez expressed his “solidarity with the people affected by the wildfire in Tenerife, especially those who had to be evacuated.”

“I would like to thank, once again, all the personnel for the tireless work they are doing and for their enormous professionalism in the fight against the fire.”

The regional government has set up four shelters for people who had to flee their homes.

Local authorities have cut off access to the Mount Teide volcano, Spain’s highest peak and a top tourist draw, because of the fire.

The blaze broke out after the islands were hit by a heatwave that has left many areas tinder dry.

As global temperatures rise due to climate change, scientists have warned heatwaves will become more frequent and intense, with a much wider impact.

In 2022, 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.

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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