Thousands flee ‘out of control’ wildfire on Spanish holiday island


Thousands of people have been evacuated in Tenerife as firefighters and the army struggle to contain an “out of control” wildfire.

Nearly 4,500 people were ordered to leave villages and camp sites after the fire started on Wednesday, with thousands more told to stay inside.

The blaze has already burned at least 6,425 acres of land.

“This is probably the most complicated blaze we have had on the Canary Islands, if not ever, in at least the last 40 years,” said the region’s leader, Fernando Clavijo.

He said it was a race against time to bring it under control before temperatures increase at the weekend.

Santa Cruz, the island’s capital, is 12 miles (20km) from the flames.

Waterbombing planes have managed to stabilise the fire south of Mount Teide, Spain’s highest peak, but it remained out of control on the northern flank.

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“When you go outside you start suffocating. It’s as if you have something stuck in your throat,” said Alba Gil, 37, who lives in the village of La Esperanza.

The flames advance through the forest near the town of El Rosario, as wildfire continues to burn on Tenerife, Canary Islands, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023. An out-of-control wildfire on the Spanish Canary island of Tenerife has burned some 2,600 hectares (6,400 acres) of land and forced the evacuation of some 300 people from several small towns, Canary Islands regional president Fernando Clavijo said Thursday. (Europa Press via AP)
Smoke near a forest at El Rosario on Tenerife

More than 3,800 people have also been told to stay at home due to poor air quality, said civil protection chief Montse Roman, and more evacuations could follow.

Access to the mountains has been shut off, but the island’s two airports were said to be operating normally.

Seventeen aircraft loaded with water and 350 firefighters and military personnel are involved in the firefighting effort so far.

Mr Clavijo said the fire’s perimeter was nearly 19 miles (30km) long.

“We are watching the big mountain and the blaze, we saw this firewall and we’ll see if they can control it, the situation
seems pretty bad,” said local resident Celestino Suarez, 53.

The fire follows a heatwave on the islands last week that left many areas tinderbox dry.

Combination of satellite images shows the island of Tenerife before and during the wildfire, Spain August 13, 2023 (left) and August 16, 2023
Pic:Planet Labs PB
Satellite images of Tenerife from 13 and 16 August

Tenerife is the latest place to experience an unusually serious wildfire this summer.

The most devastating was in Hawaii where at least 106 people died on the island of Maui when a fire raced through a popular coastal town.

Scientists say climate change is helping make extreme weather events more frequent.