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Wildfires in Tenerife blamed on arsonists by Spanish authorities after 12,000 evacuated in holiday spot
20 August 2023, 21:54
Tenerife's wildfires started deliberately, according to Spanish authorities fighting the five-day blaze on the popular holiday island.
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According to Canary Islands' regional president, the police have identified three lines of investigation in the case of suspected arson but have not arrested any suspects.
Fernando Clavijo said that the police confirmed that the fires were started because of arson earlier on Sunday - after 12,000 residents and holidaymakers were forced to flee the inferno.
Improved weather conditions helped firefighters make advances overnight in their battle to tame a wildfire raging out of control for the past five days.
"The night was very difficult but thanks to the work of the firefighters, the results have been very positive," Tenerife governor, Rosa Davila said at a news conference on Sunday.
Although the blaze in the north-east of the island is not near the main tourist areas in the southwest, the regional government ordered the evacuation of a state-run hotel in the Teide volcano national park, in central Tenerife, some 30 miles south-west of the fire zone. It was not immediately clear how many people were staying at the hotel.
Ms Davila said that more than 12,000 people have been evacuated from their homes since the fire started on Tuesday.
The islands' emergency services said on Sunday that 11,600 hectares (29,000 acres) of pine forest and scrubland had been burned.
No injuries have so far been reported and Ms Davila said that thanks to the firefighters, no houses have been burned so far.
Canary Islands regional president Fernando Clavijo said on Sunday that police have confirmed that the fire was started deliberately.
Mr Clavijo said police had opened three lines of investigation but did not say if there had been any arrests.
The fire, described as the worst in Tenerife in decades, is threatening 11 town areas flanking the steep and craggy mountain area affected. Access for firefighters is extremely difficult.
The emergency services said air quality in 19 town areas was not good and urged people to stay indoors when possible and wear masks outdoors.
More than 400 firefighters and soldiers have been deployed, as well as 23 water-carrying helicopters and planes.
The Canary Islands have been in drought for most of the past few years, just like most of mainland Spain. The islands have recorded below-average rainfall in recent years because of changing weather patterns impacted by climate change.
Spain's mainland is bracing for another heat wave starting on Sunday. Spain's state weather service issued a warning on Saturday that temperatures would be on the rise in the coming days, hitting 40C (104F) in parts of the mainland.
More than 2,000 people were evacuated in a wildfire on the nearby La Palma island last month that affected some 4,500 hectares (11,000 acres).
According to the European Forest Fire Information System, Spain heads the list of EU countries affected by wildfires so far this year, with 75,000 hectares (185,000 acres) burned, ahead of Italy and Greece.
Spain accounted for almost 40% of the nearly 800,00 hectares (two million acres) burned in the European Union in 2022, the EU agency said.