SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, Canary Islands (AP) — Firefighters battled overnight to try to bring under control the worst wildfire in decades on the Spanish Canary Island of Tenerife, a major tourist destination, officials said Friday.
The fire in the north of the island, which started late Tuesday, has forced the evacuation or confinement of nearly 8,000 people in eight municipalities.
Television images and videos posted on social media showed the flames coming down the hill close to houses in small neighborhoods and a massive cloud of smoke rising from the area.
The fire is located up in a pine wooded mountain area with several municipalities on its flanks, including Arafo and Candelaria to the east, and La Orotava to the west.
Army captain Rafael San José told Spanish National Television that some progress had been made overnight in stopping the fire's spread but that rising temperatures during the day would increase difficulties.
The Canary Islands have been in drought for most of the past few years, just like most of mainland Spain. The islands have recorded below-average rainfall in recent years, because of changing weather patterns impacted by climate change.
Canary Islands regional President Fernando Clavijo said late Thursday the blaze, which has scorched 3,200 hectares, or 7,900 acres, was still very virulent but that fortunately there had been no injuries so far.
He said Friday’s efforts would be crucial to containing the fire.
The north of the island was forecast to have a maximum temperature of 30 degrees Celsius (84 F) Friday with light winds, (20 kph/12 mph) but temperatures were set to rise further over the weekend.
The flames cover a perimeter of 40 kilometers (25 miles) encircling some 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres) of land.
Nearly 300 firefighters and Spanish army soldiers are in the area, which is in the northeast of the island, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) away from its main town, Santa Cruz.
Tenerife is one of Europe's main tourist destinations. Its tourism office stressed Thursday that the most important tourist areas are far from the fire. Business continues as usual in accommodation establishments, beaches and other tourist sites near the coast and in the midlands, the office said.
But access to the Teide National Park, the most important tourist attraction in Tenerife after the beaches, was closed Thursday evening and all tourist facilities around the Teide volcano area, including accommodation, were to be evacuated.
Clavijo claimed the fire was the worst in 40 years. He said the combination of extreme temperatures and the fire had turned the area into a virtual oven.
The seven-island archipelago is located off the northwest coast of Africa and southwest of mainland Spain.
More than 2,000 people were evacuated in a wildfire on the nearby La Palma island last month that affected some 4,500 hectares (11,000 acres).
Wildfires have burned almost 64,000 hectares (158,000 acres) in Spain in the first seven months of the year, according to Spanish government data. That’s the third highest figure in the last decade.
Spain accounted for almost 40% of the nearly 800,00 hectares (2 million acres) burned in the European Union in 2022, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.
Ciarán Giles in Madrid contributed to this story. David Brunat contributed from Barcelona.
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