Devastation for Tenerife after savage sandstorm and fires
The extreme weather conditions which hit Tenerife recently with one of the worst Sahara dust storms in history, followed by gale-force winds and fires because of the heat, have left a lasting impression on the island.
Whilst thousands of tourists were unable to fly in and out of the airports due to near nil visibility, they were at least able to get home eventually and back to normal. Not so Tenerife.
Such tremendous damage was caused to crops and banana plantations that the Canary Government is likely to declare catastrophic zones in some of the municipalities most affected.
At one stage, there were at least 20 fires in six muni-cipalities, with Santa Ursula in the north most badly hit. Here, many residents had to be evacuated, including old folk from an elderly person’s residence, and a number of houses were destroyed.
The president of the Cabildo de Tenerife, Pedro Martín, the insular advisor of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Javier Parrilla, and his counterpart in the Canary Islands Government, Alicia Vanoostende, visited the different agricultural areas affected.
Initial investigations suggest that the damages in the banana plantations exceed 70/80 per cent of the production, while in the potato crops planted before January 15th, the figures approach 100 per cent, with figures also high in horticultural, including avocados. There was also considerable damage to agricultural infrastructure.
The horrendous episode began with the dense calima which produced the very strong gusts of wind and soaring temperatures which caused the fires.
“We need to seek help and compensation because the damage has been significant and we will look for alternatives in two priority lines: the one that has to do with the countryside and with helping families who have lost their homes to the fires,” said Sr. Martin.
In the case of banana cultivation, the Cabildo will offer producers a million plants within three months and thus facilitate the work of replacement and recovery of the affected areas.
In Arona, walls, trees and branches were brought crashing down, as well as traffic signs, landslides and displaced ceilings. In the port of Los Cristianos, meanwhile, there was a collision of two passenger boats, coming from La Palma and La Gomera.
There was multiple damage in La Orotava where the Mayor, Francisco Linares, led the call for catastrophic zone status.
More than 80 per cent of the crops in this area have been damaged, especially those of avocado, bananas, potatoes and vines.
In Santa Ursula, 16 districts were affected with some residents having to be evacuated as well as 60 people from an old folks’ home. Five homes were damaged and a winery and some shops. Several vehicles were burnt.
In Adeje, there were numerous incidents, falling trees, branches and signs, as well as considerable damage to sports infrastructures and football fields. The windstorm also struck the agricultural market, tearinf off access doors and causing damage inside.
Playgrounds had to be closed for some time as branches and other fallen or displaced objects were cleaned and removed.
In Puerto de la Cruz, the acclimatisation garden had to close its doors to the public for a week while cleaning and repair work was done. The strong gusts of wind in the north of Tenerife caused significant damage to the vegetation of this garden, which has a multitude of unique species from different corners of the world, tropical and subtropical plants of great economic and ornamental value. Its 20,000 square meters house trees of remarkable beauty and interest due to their size, age, rarity or origin.
There were also reports of a pedestrian having been struck by a falling roof tile.
Firefighters have been praised for their magnificent efforts in getting the fires under control and preventing even further damage. The same praise has been relayed to all those involved in the emer-gency effort.
Some of the authorities in Tenerife are calling for a new early warning system against calimas which happen on a regular basis but never as severe at this most recent episode, coupled with the unprecedented fires.