Hundreds of firefighters are struggling to bring raging wildfires under control as the chief of the Canary Islands pleads for residents to leave their homes.
At least 4,000 people have been evacuated as wildfires raged “out of control” on Spain’s Canary Island of La Palma as Europe struggles to deal with a heatwave, according to authorities.
The fire broke out in La Palma in the early hours of Saturday morning in El Pinar, a wooded area in the northern part of the island. The fire forced the evacuation of people from the nearby villages of Puntagorda and Tigaravi.
Ten air units and 300 firefighters on the ground have sought to control wildfires on the island, which forms part of a Spanish archipelago off the coast of West Africa.
Local authorities said Sunday that at least 13 homes were destroyed as the fire intensified, and more than 4,650 hectares (11,490 acres) of land are now damaged.
“The fire spread very quickly,” said Fernando Clavijo, president of the Canary Islands. “The fire is out of control.”
He urged residents to take responsibility and heed calls to evacuate because many do not want to leave their homes.
Clavijo also expressed concern that the winds might shift at night, saying it could make the evacuation more dangerous. He said that 10 planes are fighting the fire and planes are expected to drop water.
The mayor of Puntagorda, Vicente Rodriguez, told Spanish public television station RTVE that the fire started within his municipality. He added that the region has witnessed below-average precipitation rates in recent years, just like large parts of the mainland stricken by drought, due to changing weather patterns affected by climate change.
In Tenerife, another of the eight Canary Islands, authorities said a forest fire also broke out on Saturday, prompting the evacuation of 50 people and destroying about 60 hectares (148 acres).
According to the Spanish royal family, King Felipe VI of Spain called Clavijo on Saturday to express his support for the people of La Palma.
The bushfire is the first natural crisis on the island since a volcanic eruption in September 2021 destroyed more than 2,000 buildings and forced several thousand people to leave their homes when lava began flowing from the Cumbre Vieja volcano. The fire comes amid a severe heat wave in southern Europe.
Spain experienced record high temperatures in 2022 and this spring as it suffered a prolonged drought. Authorities and forest experts worry that conditions are in place for a difficult wildfire season.
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