Tenerife’s fire may also have been started deliberately

Tenerife’s fire may also have been started deliberately

1 August 2007

published by www.eitb24.com

Forest fires, still out of control, have razed 35,000 hectares on Spain’s Canary Islands. Spain’s Prime Minister makes an emergency visit to the Canary Islands Wednesday.

Spain — The forest fire that is razing the Spanish island of Tenerife may also have be, as well as the Gran Canarias one, started deliberately, an official of the regional government of the Canary Islands said Tuesday night.

Forest fires have razed 35,000 hectares on Spain’s Canary Islands, just as the tourist season reaches its peak, forcing the evacuation of more than 12,000 people, the island government said on Tuesday.

Summer temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) have been exacerbated by strong winds, laying waste to large mountainous and pinewood areas and forcing the closure of several motorways on the biggest island, Tenerife.

Some local media estimated that the number of people forced to leave their homes was as high as 13,500 since Sunday but official figures on the Canaries government website put the number at 12,000. Details on how many tourists were affected were not available.

As emergency services battled with blazes on the islands of Gran Canaria, Tenerife and La Gomera, Spain’s Environment Minister Cristina Narbona said the situation was “very alarming”, promising more fire-fighting planes would be sent to the islands.

“This morning the wind dropped a little and so did the temperature. Although the situation is still very complicated we hope … it may get a little better,” Paulino Rivero, head of the Canary Islands’ government, told reporters.

A judge on Monday ordered that a forest ranger who admitted to starting the original fire on Gran Canaria be held in solitary confinement. He had been angry over his work contract, the archipelago’s supreme court said. Fires burned an average 140,000 hectares of land a year in Spain from 1990 to 2004, but they have become more frequent in recent years and many of them are started deliberately.

Spain’s prime minister makes an emergency visit to the Canary Islands Wednesday to assess the raging wildfires. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who was about to begin his summer vacation, has scrapped plans to visit Barcelona and will instead rush to the islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria.

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