Spain: Gran Canaria wildfire an 'environmental tragedy'

Cheryl Sanders
August 20, 2019

A fire raged out of control on the Spanish holiday island of Gran Canaria yesterday, forcing evacuations as flames rose so high even water-dropping planes could not operate in what was dubbed an "environmental tragedy".

Lourdes Hernandez, an professional on wildfires at WWF, instructed AFP the blaze had entered the Tamadaba pure park, an untouched pine forest that represents "the main green lungs of the island".

Two different fires hit the island's centre final week with out inflicting harm.

Speaking at a news conference, Canary Islands regional president Angel Victor Torres told reporters: 'The fire is not contained nor stabilised nor controlled'.

The exact number of evacuees was unclear on the island that lies at the heart of the Canary archipelago off the coast of northwest Africa.

Local fire officials said emergency workers faced huge flames and gusting winds that blew embers into the air, starting secondary fires.

Summer temperatures on the island on Monday were expected to reach 36 degrees Celsius.

This is not Gran Canaria's only fire this season. News reports indicate that firefighting aircraft were grounded for a time as flames shot as high as 160 feet into the air, making safe aerial drops of water and fire retardant impossible.

No fatalities have been reported and tourism on Gran Canaria, which boasts breathtaking views and is popular with foreigners, had not been affected.

Wildfires are common in southern Europe during the parched summer months but changing lifestyles and the emptying out of rural areas have made woodlands more vulnerable, experts say.

He said if the island's entire annual budget was used for forest fire prevention, it would still only be possible to clear brush from 30 per cent of its woodlands and there would still be large amounts of inaccessible areas due to the island's steep mountains and deep ravines.

A wildfire that started on Saturday on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands continues to spread and has so far burned over 6,000 hectares of land.

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