'Out-of-control' Canary Islands wildfire rages as 9,000 evacuated

Blaze on Spanish island of Gran Canaria propelled by combination of high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity.

    'Out-of-control' Canary Islands wildfire rages as 9,000 evacuated
    People evacuated from their homes look at a helicopter dropping water to fight the forest fire in Gran Canaria [Borja Suarez/Reuters]

    Around 9,000 people have been evacuated as firefighters battle an out-of-control wildfire on Gran Canaria in Spain's Canary Islands, authorities have said.

    The blaze, which began on Saturday near the town of Tejeda, is advancing on several fronts, propelled by a combination of high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity. So far, the fire is affecting the mountainous central part of the island rather than coastal areas busy with tourists in the summer months.

    Canary Islands President Angel Victor Torres said on Monday that 1,100 firefighters were being deployed in shifts along with 14 water-dropping aircraft to battle the blaze, which forced the closure of two dozen roads.

    "The fire remains out of control," a spokeswoman for emergency services in the region told Reuters news agency. "It is a very serous fire."

    According to the government, around 6,000 hectares were charred in just 48 hours

    The island has been experiencing temperatures into the high 30s Celsius, humidity levels below 30 percent and very strong winds, making it all the more difficult for the firefighters to control the fire.

    Canary Island
    Flames and smoke from a forest fire are seen in the village of Galdar on the Canary Island of Gran Canaria [Borja Suarez/Reuters]

    On Monday, Gran Canaria was on an orange alert for very high temperatures possibly reaching 39C amid more threats of spreading wildfires.

    Starting on Tuesday, weather conditions are expected to improve, helping firefighters in containing the blaze with temperatures dropping and winds easing.

    This is not Gran Canaria's only fire this season. Two other fires within the past eight days had already led to some towns being evacuated.

    Resorts in the main beach area of the island have not been affected by the higher terrain fires.

    Gran Canaria is the third-largest island in the Canary Islands archipelago, in the North Atlantic Ocean. About 50km in diameter, Gran Canaria has a population of 850,000.

    Wildfires are common in southern Europe during the parched summer months but changing lifestyles and the emptying out of rural areas have made woodlands more vulnerable.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies