TENERIFE, CANARY ISLANDS, Spain, Aug 19 (Reuters) – Thousands more people were evacuated from their homes on the Spanish island of Tenerife on Saturday as wildfires raged in the island’s north grew out of control, but the blaze was still spreading. Avoided major tourist areas.
The Canary Islands’ emergency services said more than 26,000 people had been evacuated as of Saturday afternoon, a sharp rise from 4,500 on Friday, according to provisional estimates. Currently 11 cities are affected.
Fierce flames burned into the night sky, and helicopters were seen on Saturday dropping water on areas near homes where smoke billowed into the air.
The fire broke out on Wednesday amid hot and dry weather in the mountainous national park surrounding Mount Teide, Spain’s highest peak.
More evacuations were ordered Saturday morning due to bad weather overnight, including rising temperatures and strong winds, regional chief Fernando Clavijo told a news conference.
He said heavy smoke hampered efforts to extinguish the fire from the air.
About 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) with a radius of 50 km (30 mi) have been burned so far.
Tenerife council president Rosa Dávila told reporters that the fires were unprecedented in the Canary Islands.
“Protecting people’s lives” is the priority, he said.
No houses have been damaged in the fire so far, he added, quoting the fire department.
In La Victoria, in the northwest of the island, some evacuees are receiving medical assistance.
“The night before we arrived, we had a bad time. Everything was burning… the roofs were full (of ash),” Paulina Fernandez, 58, told Reuters.
The main concern of many evacuees is their animals. Some were forced to leave them at home, while others led their horses to safety, Reuters footage showed.
The island’s popular tourist areas have so far been unaffected and its two airports are operating normally.
Extreme heat and dry weather this summer contributed to unusually severe wildfires in Europe, including on Spain’s La Palma island and Canada in July. Fires on the Hawaiian island of Maui earlier this month killed more than 110 people and devastated the historic resort town of Lahaina.
Climate change has led to more frequent and powerful extreme weather events, scientists say.
Report by Nacho Dos and Jessica Jones, written by Jessica Jones; Editing by Clelia Oziel
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