| 13 July 2024, Saturday |

Thousands evacuated as Spanish island wildfire out of control

At least 4,000 people have been evacuated as a forest fire burned out of control on the Spanish island of La Palma, authorities said on Sunday, as Europe struggled to cope with a heatwave.

The fire in La Palma started in the early hours of Saturday in El Pinar de Puntagorda, a wooded area in the north of the island in the Canaries. The blaze forced the evacuation of people from the villages of Puntagorda and neighboring Tijarafe.

Ten aerial units and 300 firefighters on the ground sought to bring the wildfire under control on the island, which forms part of a Spanish archipelago off the coast of western Africa.

At least 13 houses were destroyed as the fire advanced, said Fernando Clavijo, president of the Canary Islands.

“There has been some resistance by local people to leaving their homes, but I appeal to people to be responsible,” Clavijo told reporters in La Palma.

The fire has affected more than 4,6500 hectares (114,904 acres) of land, authorities said.

In Tenerife, another of the eight Canary Islands, a forest fire, which broke out on Saturday, forced the evacuation of 50 people and destroyed about 60 hectares, authorities said.

King Felipe VI of Spain telephoned Clavijo on Saturday to express his support with the people of La Palma, the Spanish royal household said.

The forest fire is the first natural crisis on the island since a volcanic eruption in September 2021. More than 2,000 buildings were destroyed and many thousands of people were forced to leave their homes when lava began pouring out of the Cumbre Vieja volcano.

Ash covered the island for months until the eruption ended three months later.

  • Reuters