UPDATE - Wildfire on Spain's Tenerife island worsens, 26,000 people evacuated

UPDATE - Wildfire on Spain's Tenerife island worsens, 26,000 people evacuated

Local authorities call it worst wildfire to hit Canary Islands on record


By Alyssa McMurtry

OVIEDO, Spain (AA) - The wildfire raging on the Spanish island of Tenerife took a surprising turn for the worse, forcing fresh evacuations on Saturday.

"This fire of this scale has never been seen in the Canary Islands as long as we've been keeping records," said Rosa Davila, head of Tenerife’s council.

Around 4,000 people had been forced to flee their homes on Friday. But, as of Saturday afternoon, Candelaria Delgado, Canary islands councilor for social welfare, told local broadcaster RTVC that 26,000 people had been evacuated. The total population of Tenerife is 950,000.

"The meteorological conditions last night were frankly severe … The wind, hot temperatures and circumstances were much worse than we forecast, causing the fire to spill over to the north," Canary Islands President Fernando Clavijo told reporters.

The wildfire has burned through around 5,000 hectares (12,355 acres) of land since it began Tuesday, including swathes of the Canary Island's largest natural park.

Meanwhile, the head of Tenerife's environmental agency warned that temperatures are expected to continue rising throughout Saturday and Sunday while humidity decreases, meaning difficult situations cannot be ruled out.

The fire has also caused significant damage to a canal that brings water to towns on the north of the island, complicating the situation even more. Because of the so-far irreparable damage to this "critical infrastructure," thousands of residents have experienced temporary water cuts, while authorities call for "responsible use" of the water to ensure enough is available for both residents and firefighters.

Pedro Martinez, director of forest services, said the wildfire is currently "beyond the capacity of extinction" but firefighters were doing everything possible to avoid human damage.

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