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Wildfire on Spain's Tenerife spreads across island's north

August 16, 2023 7:16 AM EDT

Flames and smoke rise as wildfire burns on the Canary island of Tenerife, Spain, August 16, 2023 in this picture obtained from social media. Gerardo Ibelli/via REUTERS

By Corina Pons

TENERIFE, Canary Islands, Spain (Reuters) -A wildfire that broke out in a mountainous national park on the Spanish island of Tenerife on Wednesday spread to 1,800 hectares (4,450 acres) in 24 hours as firefighters struggled to contain the blaze amid difficult terrain conditions.

The fire's perimeter expanded to 22 kilometres (14 miles) across dry woodland covering both flanks of steep ravines near the Mount Teide volcano - Spain's highest peak - hampering access to the area.

"The fire is out of control... the outlook is not positive," the region's leader, Fernando Clavijo, told an evening news conference in Tenerife's capital, Santa Cruz.

"Our goal for tonight is defensive, so that the fire does not continue its advance. We will carry out operations to protect residents' property," he added.

Authorities deployed 14 aircraft and a combined 250 firefighters and military personnel. A waterbombing seaplane arrived on Wednesday afternoon from the mainland and two others were expected on Thursday morning.

Vicky Palma, a wildfire adviser to the Tenerife council, told Canarias Radio the expected drop in temperatures at night to around 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) would likely increase the strength of winds in the area.

The island's emergency services chief Pedro Martinez said: "We don't rule out that tomorrow we'll again see intense fire activity".

Rosa Davila, head of the Tenerife council, said all access to the mountains on the island, including tourist-favourite Mount Teide, has been closed off. "We are doing this to prevent any incidents," she said.

Canarias Radio said some 150 people have been evacuated so far from half a dozen villages in the sparsely populated area in the island's northeast, made up mostly of farms and holiday homes.

A dog shelter said it had preventively evacuated some of its most vulnerable dogs and those with respiratory problems so that they would not be affected by the smoke.

Tenerife's two airports were operating normally, the public broadcaster added, citing Spanish airport operator Aena.

Last week, a heatwave in the Canary Islands left many areas bone dry, heightening the risk of wildfires.

This summer, firefighters have extinguished a series of forest fires on the islands of Gran Canaria and La Palma, which form part of the Canary Islands archipelago.

Europe is battling the effects of scorching temperatures reaching worrying levels globally, made worse by climate change.

(Reporting by Corina Pons; Writing by David Latona; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Barbara Lewis and Josie Kao)



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