Gran Canaria wildfires see hotels evacuated as thousands flee

More than 1,235 acres ravaged in less than 24 hours as officials warn blaze has ‘great potential’ to spread

Firefighters battle new wildfire in Gran Canaria

Wildfires in Gran Canaria have forced around 4,000 people to flee their homes.

Authorities said the flames ravaged more than 1,235 acres on the Canary Island in less than a day.

At least 600 emergency staff, including 250 firefighters, worked to tackle the blaze on Sunday near the town of Valleseco.

Army personnel were also fighting the blaze.

Local government officials said nine helicopters and two planes were being used in the operation.

Officials said the fire “[had] great potential” to spread.

Gran Canaria is experiencing temperatures close to 40C, humidity levels below 30% and strong winds, which usually provide what experts call the “perfect storm” for strong​ wildfires.

“The environmental damage has already been done,” said Angel Victor Torres, the region’s president, in comments carried by the private Europa Press news agency.

“We are facing a complicated situation in which the security of people is the priority now,” he added.

At least 40 towns around Valleseco had been evacuated by Sunday.

Firefighters also called for hydro planes from mainland Spain to return after they were used to fight two other wildfires recently.

Tourist destination the Cross of Tejeda, which sits on a high mountain pass with sweeping views of the island, was evacuated on Saturday evening, as was a nearby luxury hotel.

The village of Tejeda, which has a population of just under 2,000 people, and other nearby areas were also cleared.

Tejeda was also evacuated last week as another wildfire spread through the area.

The holiday island suffered another ravaging fire last week, during which hundreds of people were evacuated.

Following last week’s wildfire, emergency services expressed concerns that remaining embers could spark another fire with strong winds and hot temperatures expected.

Wildfires are common in southern Europe during the hot, dry summer months.

Nearly half of Spain’s provinces were on alert on Sunday for high risk of fires, according to the country’s weather agency AEMET.

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Europe has seen record temperatures this summer, with experts warning of the potential for dangerous wildfires in Spain in July.

A 2018 Met Office study said heatwaves are 30 times more likely compared to pre-industrial times because of climate change.

Additional reporting by agencies

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