More evacuations as Canary Islands fire out of control
A wildfire raged out of control on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria Monday, forcing more evacuations as flames in some parts rose so high even water-dropping planes were unable to operate, authorities said.
The fire, which is devouring the mountainous centre of the holiday island popular for its breathtaking views, has forced the evacuation of several villages, which according to the census have a combined population of 8,000, a spokeswoman for emergency services said.
The exact number of evacuees was unclear. No fatalities have been reported.
So fierce is the fire in what is a UNESCO biosphere reserve that in some areas, it "is beyond our extinction capacities," Federico Grillo, head of emergency services in Gran Canaria, said late Sunday.
On the northwestern flank of the blaze, flames have risen as high as 50 metres (160 feet), preventing ground crew from getting near or water-dropping aircraft from flying above.
"It's a really bad situation," Grillo said.
More than 700 firefighters and other ground crew and 14 water-dropping helicopters and planes were working on bringing the blaze under control on Monday.
With the temperature set to rise, authorities estimate it could take days before the blaze is brought under control.
The fire broke out days after another wildfire in the same region forced the evacuation of hundreds.
Gran Canaria is the second most populous of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic off the northwest coast of Africa.
The archipelago received 13.7 million foreign visitors last year, over half of them from Britain and Germany.
In Gran Canaria, tourists tend to stay in beach resorts and not so much in the mountainous centre.
In a statement, the government of the Canary Islands said the tourism industry on the island remained unaffected "given that the fire is confined to upland parts," "with no resorts suffering effects" and no flight delays.