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Mass Evacuations in Canary Islands as Fire Rages

Fires due to Spain's driest winter in seven decades

- Common Dreams staff

A forest fire burns out of control in the Vilaflor municipality in the southern part of Tenerife island, a part of Spain's Canary Islands, July 16, 2012. (Photo: Reuters/Santiago Ferrero)Over 4,700 people have been evacuated from Spain's Canary Islands over two days, in fires that follow Spain's driest winter in seven decades.

"High temperatures, low humidity and wind" have continued to feed the flames as firefighters find themselves losing the battle, regional economy minister Javier Gonzalez Ortiz said on Saturday.

Both extreme and unusual heat and drought have lead to a country plagued by wildfires, as fires also continued to rage in several regions on the Spanish mainland. This year Spain experienced its driest winter in 70 years. Between January 1 and July 29, wildfires destroyed 130,830 hectares of vegetation across Spain.

On the island of La Gomera alone some 3,000 hectares of land, including about one-tenth of the Garajonay nature reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site, have been devastated.

"The fires are still burning on three fronts," an emergency services spokesperson said earlier. "There is no positive change for the moment."

Ventura del Carmen Rodriguez, the island's environment secretary, stated it would take 30-40 years for Garajonay's burned areas to recover. The Garajonay reserve hosts highly rare subtropical forests containing up to 450 plant species, including eight exclusive to the site.Wildfire advance on residential areas in La Gomera, Spain, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Andres Gutierrez)


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