9 000 people evacuated in second major Canary Island wildfire
Hundreds of fire fighters were struggling on Tuesday, 20 August 2019, to bring under control a forest fire on one of the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the northwestern coast of Africa, as the blaze forced the evacuation of about 9 000 people. Luis Planas, Spain’s agriculture minister, said the fire was the country’s worst this year. The blaze, which started on Saturday, 17 August 2019, has destroyed nearly 25 000 acres on the island of Gran Canaria, the second most populated of the Canary archipelago, with about 850 000 residents. The archipelago is one of Spain’s main tourist destinations, particularly during the European winter because of the islands’ mild climate.
The land engulfed by the fire includes part of Tamadaba National Park, which is home to several types of indigenous trees and plants.
Planas said on Tuesday that additional resources were being deployed to help contain the blaze, including drones, helicopters and an additional firefighting aircraft.
The fire is the second major blaze to affect the island this summer, after another in Artenara at the beginning of this month, which razed 1 500 hectares of land.
Spain’s acting agriculture minister, Luis Planas, reported that the team in place that is fighting the fire is the largest in the history of the Canary Islands. On Tuesday, four more aircraft were added to the 16 that are already operating in the area, four of which are hydroplanes that were brought in from the peninsula.
“The priority is to avoid the loss of human lives, as well as minimizing the material and human damage,” Planas told reporters on Monday.
The fire has caused huge environmental damage, including the Tamadaba park itself, one of the green jewels of the island. Around 600 people have been working to extinguish the fire, with a team of 400 on hand overnight.
The figure of 9 000 people evacuated from their homes is based on the official census from the neighbourhoods that have been affected so far by the evacuations. Of these, just 400 people spent the night in the six shelters that were provided in San Mateo, Teror, Gáldar, Moya, Agaete and Tunte.
Emergency services were also in contact with 40 people who were ordered to stay in the cultural centre of Artenara for their own safety. They will be moved from there when the conditions are safe to do so.
Source: El Pais and New York Times