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Spain's Emergency Military Unit personnel battling forest fires in Tenerife. Photo: EFE / Video: Europa Press
Tenerife wildfire latest

Manhunt under way for arsonist who started devastating forest fires in Tenerife

The fires have already scorched an area of almost 120,000,000 square metres and forced evacuations in 11 of the 31 municipalities of the Canary Island

J. A. G.

Tenerife

Monday, 21 August 2023, 14:54

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The devastating forest fires that have raged across Tenerife the past week were deliberately lit, authorities have confirmed.

A manhunt is now underway to catch the perpetrator responsible for igniting the fires that have scorched an area of almost 120,000,000 square metres and forced evacuations in 11of the 31 municipalities of the Canary Island.

The perimeter affected by the fire so far covers 84 kilometres across 11 municipalities: Arafo, Candelaria, Güímar, El Rosario, La Victoria, Santa Úrsula, La Orotava, La Matanza, El Sauzal, Los Realejos and Tacoronte. "From the beginning it was suspected to be an arson attack and the Guardia Civil's investigations have confirmed it," said the president of the Canary Islands, Fernando Clavijo.

Officers have already taken statements from residents in the Arafo area, where the fire started, and where there have been other outbreaks this summer, the most significant on 15 July.

A change in weather conditions has helped slow the intensity of the fire, as firefighters continue to battle the blaze. About 100 of the 12,279 people who evacuated their homes have been able to return, specifically those in certain areas of Candelaria and Arafo.

On the sixth night, fires forced the evacuation of the Parador del Parque Nacional del Teide, more than 2,000 metres above sea level, due to the intensity of the smoke. The blaze continued to rage, but did not affect any houses. "Last night, in addition to a lot of hard work, we were very lucky. Just at the most critical moment of the line of defence of the houses, it started to rain and helped us to achieve our goal of stopping the fire," the firefighters of the Gran Canaria Emergency Consortium said.

Visit of PM Pedro Sánchez

A total of 610 people, of which just over two hundred are military personnel, are involved in the operation to put out the fires. They have been boosted with 22 aerial resources including seaplanes and helicopters. Acting Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, is due to arrive in Tenerife this Monday (21 August) to visit the affected area.

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