Canary island of La Palma fights massive mountain blaze with 300 people already evacuated
Firefighters are battling a huge blaze on the Canary island of La Palma and more than 300 people have already been evacuated from their homes.
The ferocious fire broke out last night in the
forest area and continues to spread this morning as reinforcements are brought
in from neighbouring islands, including Tenerife.
The blaze in Garafía, which is in the
north-west mountain region, “has advanced uncontrollably during the
night”, according to the authorities, and more evacuations are expected.
Massive plumes of smoke are visible from the
air and from the other Canary islands which have been on alert due to the
rising temperature and strong winds.
Many householders were told to leave their
homes at dawn because of advancing flames and smoke. They are being housed in a
hostel in a neighbouring municipality, as well as a nursing home, or have gone
to stay with relatives. No tourists are thought to be involved as the area is
away from the coast and main hotels.
Firefighters say they don’t know how the blaze
started but it is active on at least two fronts in the mountain region.
Helicopters and water planes have been brought
in, together with hundreds of emergency personnel, including the police, Red
Cross, Civil Guard, civil protection, council workers and around 100 military.
The evacuated areas so far are Catedral, Los
Lomitos, Cueva de Agua, Briesta, Zona Alta, El Castillo, Las Trícias, Hoya
Grande, Llano Negro and La Mata.
President of the Cabildo of La Palma, Mariano
Hernández Zapata said: “We hope to have ten air resources, while also
working more than 200 troops from the ground. It has been a very busy and
intense night. The fire is still advancing but we have managed to cut the
advance towards Puntagorda and Tijarafe, although it has advanced more than we
expected. Humidity is just three per cent. Right now there are two fronts, in
Barranco de Briestas and in Barranco de Las Palomas, that are worrying and a third
controlled but still active.”
No injuries have been reported and although
farms have been burnt, no properties have been affected.
Local residents and tourists are being warned
not to attempt to go anywhere near the area to watch the drama because of the
rapid advance of the flames.
The island has declared a level 2 emergency
which means the Canary government takes over responsibility. President of the
Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres said he was carefully watching the
emergency which is the largest fire so far this summer in the Canaries. Roads
have been cut in the area.