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Wildfire threatens Canaries World Heritage site

Around 600 people who were evacuated over the weekend

Image Credit: AP
A house is surrounded by wildfire in La Palma, Spain.Wildfires fanned by fierce winds and high temperaturesraged across La Palma and La Gomera on Sunday.
Gulf News

La Gomera: A wildfire on the Canary Island of La Gomera that ignited on Sunday has gained strength and is threatening homes and a World Heritage Site, officials said on Monday.

“Last night the situation grew even more complicated because the fire was rekindled in zones near inhabited areas,” the head of the Spanish islands’ government, Paulino Rivero, told national radio.

Around 600 people who were evacuated over the weekend had still not been allowed to return to their homes on Monday as the blaze spread over two parts of the island.

“There are two main fires, one in the north which has penetrated the Garajonay national park and the other in the La Laja ravine area,” said Rivero.

Garajonay was added to UN cultural body Unesco’s World Heritage list for its rare subtropical forests which covered the Mediterranean millions of years ago but have now largely disappeared from the area.

Heavy fog on Monday prevented two firefighting aircraft sent by the Spanish government from taking off.

Authorities said steep ravines on the island that help fan the flames by acting as “chimneys” are an added complication, but that they believe the fog could reduce temperatures and help firefighters calm the blaze.

“We hope that this will help control the fire today,” said Rivero.

The fire, which spread from three different points, is believed to have been started deliberately.

Another fire on the Canary island of La Palma near the town of Mazo has been stabilised. That blaze had chewed through about 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres).

Spain has been battling fires in both the Canaries and on the mainland after a winter that saw almost no rainfall, leaving the Spanish landscape its driest in seven decades.

On July 22, a wind-whipped wildfire in the northeast province of Catalonia near the border with France scorched 14,000 hectares (35,000 acres), claiming four lives.

Spain’s most destructive fires so far this year were in the Valencia region in early July, burning some 50,000 hectares (123,500 acres) of vegetation.