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Europe

Wildfires prompt evacuations in Galicia, Canary Islands

Video by Charlène Pelé

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-08-12

Spanish emergency services said Saturday that hundreds of people have been evacuated from the wildfire-stricken Canary Islands and the northern Galicia region. A hot summer following a dry winter has left the country at high risk of forest fires.

AFP - Spanish authorities ordered new evacuations overnight as a forest fire raged on the Canary island of La Gomera as well as in the northern Galicia region, emergency services said Saturday.

The fires had been close to being brought under control after already ravaging an area of some 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) on La Gomera, including part of the Garajonay natural reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

"The villages of La Hayas, Arure and Guada, in the west of the island, had to be evacuated during the night," a spokesman said. Three hundred people from seven other villages were evacuated on Friday.

"The fires are still burning on three fronts," he said, adding: "There is no positive change for the moment."

About one-tenth of the Garajonay park has already burned. Garajonay has rare subtropical forests, which covered the Mediterranean region millions of years ago but have now largely disappeared. It is home to 450 plant species, including eight found only in the park.

Ventura del Carmen Rodriguez, Gomera island's environment secretary, said last week that it would take 30 to 40 years for the park's burned areas to recover.

Another 1,000 hectares have burned in the mainland's northern Galicia region in the midst of a heatwave.

Two villages in Galicia's Ourense province were evacuated Friday, the regional government said.

Spain has been battling fires both in the Canaries, which are off the Moroccan coast, and on the mainland after a winter that saw almost no rainfall, leaving the Spanish landscape its driest in seven decades.

A wave of hot weather from Africa last week pushed temperatures past 40 dgerees Centigrade (104 degrees Farenheit), increasing the risk of further wildfires.

Between January 1 and July 29, wildfires destroyed 130,830 hectares of vegetation in Spain, according to the agriculture ministry.

 

Date created : 2012-08-11

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