Canary Islands fire forces 8000 to flee

A forest fire on Spain's Gran Canaria island has forced the evacuation of 40 towns and villages.
A forest fire on Spain's Gran Canaria island has forced the evacuation of 40 towns and villages.

An out-of-control wildfire in Spain's Canary Islands is throwing flames 50 metres into the air, forcing emergency workers to evacuate more than 8000 people, authorities say.

The blaze has charred around 6000 hectares in just 48 hours, according to the government of Gran Canaria, a mountainous volcanic island in the Atlantic Ocean archipelago off northwest Africa.

The fire is racing across parched woodlands into Tamadaba Natural Park, regarded as one of the island's jewels. Some two dozen roads have been closed.

Canary Islands President Angel Victor Torres said 1100 firefighters were being deployed on Monday along with 14 water-dropping aircraft to battle the blaze that started on Saturday afternoon.

Local fire officials said emergency workers faced huge flames and gusting wind shifts that blew embers into the air, starting secondary fires, amid hot summer temperatures that were expected to reach 36 degrees Celsius.

Famous for its beaches and mountains, Gran Canaria and its capital, Las Palmas, are popular European vacation destinations. The blaze, however, was inland and no hotels were reported evacuated, just local villages.

Wildfires are common in southern Europe during the parched summer months but changing habits and lifestyles have made woodlands more vulnerable, experts say.

Gran Canaria emergency chief Frederico Grillo said recent blazes now are much worse - "nothing like those we used to have," when families worked in the countryside and forests were kept more orderly, private news agency Europa Press reported.

Australian Associated Press