x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Canary Islands wildfire which forced evacuation of 5,000 eases

The blaze on the Atlantic island of La Gomera has ravaged more than 4,000 hectares of land, including part of a rare nature reserve.

The firefighters battled through the night to extinguish the Torre de Macanes forest fire, which claimed its first victim, a fireman, on Sunday.
The firefighters battled through the night to extinguish the Torre de Macanes forest fire, which claimed its first victim, a fireman, on Sunday.

LA GOMERA, SPAIN // A wildfire that displaced thousands of people on Spain's Canary Islands eased as the wind changed yesterday and firefighters worked to snuff it out, officials said.

The blaze on the Atlantic island of La Gomera, part of the Canaries, has forced 5,000 people to be evacuated and ravaged more than 4,000 hectares of land, including part of a rare nature reserve.

"During the night the direction of the wind aided the extinguishing work so the area burnt has not notably increased," Canaries emergency services spokeswoman Carmina Lorenzo said yesterday.

"The wind direction is helping to stop the fire advancing."

The most dramatic of several blazes across Spain in recent days, the fire on La Gomera first broke out more than a week ago and spread rapidly across the parched land in sweltering temperatures.

Emergency services received reinforcements including extra aircraft, and seven water-bombing planes and seven helicopters were fighting the fire yesterday, Ms Lorenzo said.

Some of the 5,000 people who had been kept away from their homes were able to return on Monday evening, though several villages remained evacuated, she added.

The regional government earlier said the fire devastated hundreds of hectares in the Garajonay National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site that is home to rare subtropical plants.

Spain is at particularly high risk of fires this summer after suffering its driest winter in 70 years.

Two firefighters were killed while fighting a blaze in pine forests near Alicante in southeastern Spain on Sunday, authorities said.

Last month four people were killed by a wildfire in the northern Catalonia region.

The Spanish government said a total of 132,300 hectares of land had been burnt this year up to August 5.