Tenerife wildfire continues to spread rapidly forcing thousands more to flee their homes
Tenerife wildfire latest

Tenerife wildfire continues to spread rapidly forcing thousands more to flee their homes

The forest fire declared on Tuesday is still burning out of control. Ten municipalities have already been affected and the difficult weather conditions have complicated the situation

Lucía Álamo Valencia / Agencies

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Saturday, 19 August 2023, 14:22


The forest fire situation declared on Tenerife in Spain's Canary Islands on Tuesday has worsened. This has been confirmed by 112 Canarias on its Twitter social media account, which prompted the president of the Canary Islands regional government, Fernando Clavijo, to go to the coordination centre in the early hours of this Saturday morning. The same source has said, through the same channel, that the fire has become more complicated in the north of the island, forcing the evacuation, firstly, of neighbourhoods and streets of La Orotava, and then of La Matanza, La Victoria de Acentejo, El Sauzal and Santa Ursula.

Manuel Miranda, head of Emergencies of the Canary Islands Government, referred to these actions, in statements to Televisión Canaria, as "massive evacuations" which are being carried out in stages in five municipalities in the north of Tenerife, those ranging from Tacoronte to La Orotava. However, further evacuations are not ruled out during the course of the day.

Local residents were alerted to this situation by the Canary Islands government via SMS. In the same message they were told where to go for the "orderly" evacuation, according to Miranda. It is believed that there is no damage to property.

The head of emergencies has linked the worsening of the fire to the difficult weather conditions, as the wind and heat have increased and the humidity has decreased. For this reason, efforts have been focused on containing the advance of the flames in the northern area and on evacuating people.

Montse Román, technical director of the emergency committee, indicated that an electricity supply infrastructure has been affected in La Orotava, although it is an evacuated area, so the population has not suffered the consequences of this damage.

According to the latest data provided at the press conference to monitor the event on Friday night, the fire, which is still out of control, now affects 5,000 hectares and has a perimeter of 50 kilometres, covering ten municipalities in the north and south of the island.

The president of the Canary Islands regional government, Fernando Clavijo, druing his media appearance that late on Friday afternoon, the fire broke out in the upper area of the municipality of Güímar, which meant that the Dehesas, Los Pelados and Las Coloradas had to be evacuated, as well as the Meteorological Observatory and the Canary Islands Astrophysical Institute in Izaña.

Clavijo insisted that, despite the hours that have passed since the fire started and its severity, the morale of the fire-fighting teams "is high" and he highlighted the magnificent work being done to combat it.

The terrain and the weather do not help

He commented that the fire is evolving according to forecasts but remains uncontrolled and stated that the most unusual thing of the day was that the fire overflowed into the Chó Marcial area, in the municipality of Gúimar. With regard to this, the technical head of extinction, Pedro Martínez, commented that efforts will be focused so that the fire does not advance on that flank and highlighted the complexity of the terrain in many of the points of the perimeter that hindered and continue to hinder both the intervention of ground and aerial means.

The weather conditions for today forecast an increase in temperatures in the area of the fire and although, according to Victoria Palma, meteorologist and advisor to the Cabildo of Tenerife, the wind will be weak, gusts of more than 50 kilometres per hour are possible, while the humidity will be low, conditions which will be similar for Sunday.

The Canary Islands president explained that 17 aircraft are scheduled to fight the wildfire this Saturday, including a Kamov helicopter with a large water carrying capacity.

He detailed that of the more than 3,000 people evacuated, only 14 are housed in the shelters provided for their care, as well as a hundred pets, and announced that the confinement that was still in force for part of the population of La Esperanza has been lifted.

Concerns about basic services

As for basic services, following the break in the Aguamansa water network canal, Clavijo said that the provision of these services was a matter of concern, although, in principle, as far as electricity was concerned, both Red Eléctrica and Endesa assured them that there would be no problems with the supply.

The president of the Cabildo, Rosa Dávila, acknowledged that these are difficult hours for those working on this "devastating fire" because despite their efforts, the result is not entirely satisfactory.

She referred to the rupture of the Aguamansa water canal in La Orotava, which will cause programmed cuts in the supply in several municipalities on the island until the fault, which has already been identified, can be repaired, but which cannot be accessed due to the fire. She said she is confident that the fire brigade will be able to reach the canal this Saturday and called for more rational water consumption until the problem is resolved.

More than 200 troops during the night

On the Santa Ursula front, which is one of the most virulent, the wildfire is moving in ravines and is expected to go down to an area of Monteverde, which is more resistant to the flames, while in La Orotava, the fire is also advancing very slowly down a very steep slope and the extinguishing teams are doing defensive work at the farmhouses. Also on the southern slope, the fire is advancing slowly through the ravines and it is hoped that it can be consolidated in the area of Arafo, said Martínez.

Montserrat Román, from the Civil Protection volunteer group, pointed out that 44 percent of the affected area is in Arafo and 35 percent in Candelaria and the rest is divided between El Rosario, La Victoria, La Matanza, El Sauzal, Tacoronte, La Orotava, Santa Úrsula and Güímar.

During the night, 226 personnel were working on the firefghting, plus 100 security personnel and 40 logistic staff, and today, 260 people will be on duty.

Clavijo has asked the population to "be careful about exposure to smoke, since the priority is to guarantee the safety of people, then of movable property and thirdly to minimise damage to the green area". He also sent a message to "the curious" asking them to "refrain from climbing the summits, out of common sense".

Wind change and rising temperatures

One of the circumstances that most worries the experts is the wind direction and the increase in temperatures that is expected from Saturday onwards in Tenerife. Meteorologist Victoria Palma announced a "wind shift that is already taking place", which will result in the smoke turning towards La Orotava and Güimar.

Temperatures are forecast to rise during the weekend when the maximum will be 32C in the higher reaches of the fire. On Monday and Tuesday even more heat is expected on the island.

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