Canary Islands fires: Thousands evacuated from La Palma in Spain as wildfire blazes
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Thousands of people have been urged to leave their homes in La Palma, part of the Canary Islands, as emergency workers are fighting wildfires on the island. The fire began early on Saturday morning and has already consumed around 4,500 hectares (11,100 acres) of land and over a dozen homes.
Officials have said that around 4,255 have been evacuated from the Spanish island, but also said that others were refusing to leave their homes. Around 400 troops have been brought in to take the blaze with more soldiers leaving Morón Air Base this morning to help control the blaze.
The official social media for the Military Emergency Unit, Unidad Militar de Emergencias, has shared this morning that no further evacuations had taken place on La Palma today. Forces have worked overnight as they attempt to prevent the fires from damaging more homes.
The fires come less than two years after a volcano erupted on the island, which destroyed thousands of homes. 7,000 people were forced to leave their homes, but fortunately no one was injured.
President of the Canary Islands regional government, Fernando Clavijo said that there was “resistance to abandoning the houses” but that the focus had to be on saving lives. He has also asked residents to “Exercise caution and listen to the authorities.” before adding: “People come first, then the houses, and then [extinguishing the fire]”
The fire initially began in El Pinar, in the north-western municipality of Puntagorda, before spreading south towards the town of Tijarafe. Mr Clavijo said the fires had spread quickly due to “the wind, the climate conditions as well as the heatwave that we are living through.
This morning, Mr Clavijo shared an update on his Twitter account, where he said: “The El Sequero fire in Gran Canaria was controlled and the fires of #Arafo and #Puntagorda were active. Work will continue on the 3 forest fires that affect the Islands.” Last night it was revealed that the progress of the spread had slowed but it remained out of control.
A seaplane was brought in to tackle the fire before nightfall, with local media reporting that a second will join the operation today. The Red Cross has set up a facility to assist evacuees who have left the island.
The Spanish president Pedro Sánchez has shared his solidarity with the Canary Islands in a post on his social media accounts. Mr Sánchez said: I have just conveyed to the President of the Canary Islands, @FClavijoBatlle , my solidarity with the people affected by the Puntagorda fire, in La Palma, especially with those who have been evacuated. We put at your disposal all the necessary means. We have activated the @UMEgob that already joins the troops of @mitecogob in the work of extinction.”
The fire comes amid a heatwave which has brought soaring temperatures to much of southern Europe. The heatwave is expected to continue into next week, with many countries affected, including Italy who have issued a red weather alert for 16 cities, including Rome, Florence and Bologna.