More than 7,500 people have been evacuated or ordered to stay indoors as the worst wildfire in at least four decades ravages the Canary Island of Tenerife, burning 2,600 hectares (6,425 acres) of land and approaching the capital, Santa Cruz.
Fernando Clavijo, the Canary Islands regional president, said more than 250 firefighters – backed by military emergency teams and 17 aircraft – were working to tackle the blaze, which broke out in northeastern Spain on Tuesday. island and which currently has a Perimeter of 32 km (20 miles).
“It was a very difficult night,” he told a press conference on Thursday. “This is probably the most complicated fire we have had on the Canary Islands – if not ever, at least in the past 40 years.”
Vicky Palma, technical adviser to the authorities in Tenerife, said “a fire of a magnitude not seen in the Canary Islands since records began” was creating its own weather patterns and dumping hot ash on the municipality of El Rosario, in the northeast of the island. .
Clavijo said the evacuation and containment orders were issued to keep people safe and help firefighters do their job, as the blaze continued to spiral out of control less than 20km away. (12 miles) from Santa Cruz. “The decision was made because the burning ash and the wind are causing small fires in different areas,” he added.
Alba Gil, a resident of the confined village of La Esperanza, said she and her family stayed up until 4 a.m. Tuesday because they were worried about the flames. “When you go out, you start suffocating,” she told Reuters. “It’s like you have something stuck in your throat.”
Temperatures in the Canary Islands, which have peaked at over 40C (104F) in recent days, are expected to rise again on Saturday.
More than 2,000 people were evacuated to a forest fire on the neighboring island of La Palma last month which affected some 4,500 hectares. Forest fires have burned nearly 64,000 hectares in Spain in the first seven months of the year, according to Spanish government data.
According to EU figures, the 2022 forest fire season was the second worst on record, with blazes devouring 1,624,381 hectares – an area of land roughly equivalent to Montenegro. In Spain alone, forest fires have burned 315,705 hectares.
Speaking to the Guardian last month, Spain’s environment minister, Teresa Ribera, warned that the climate emergency made forest fires more and more likely.
“In places where the climate is in transition – like the Iberian Peninsula – large fires are probably one of the most real, frequent, significant, damaging and painful threats that climate change brings,” she said. .
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report