Wildfire on Spain’s Tenerife improves, but thousands remain evacuated

A wildfire on Spain’s Tenerife island that has forced over 12,000 people to flee their homes continued to spread on Sunday, despite a slight improvement in weather conditions.

Authorities on Saturday warned that the strong winds and hot temperatures could become dire, but Canary Islands President Fernando Clavijo reported on Sunday that overnight conditions were better than expected.

“It’s true that the night started out really hard. We were getting a lot of calls about fires coming close to homes. But it turned out the strategies we used worked. We established defensive lines around homes and had firefighters battling the blaze in the right areas. Then, at around 2 a.m. the wind died down … it’s almost a miracle that no homes have burned down,” he told reporters.

The wildfire began on Tuesday and has scorched around 10,000 hectares (24,000 acres). Authorities have said it is the worst on record for the Canary Islands.

A government official earlier said more than 26,000 people had been evacuated from their homes, but the figure was later revised to 12,600.

Although firefighters have stabilized the blaze in the south, authorities are still waiting for further confirmation to allow some of the evacuees to return home.

But on Sunday, more evacuations were ordered as the flames continued uncontrolled on its northern perimeter. For instance, all guests staying at the state-owned Parador Hotel in the Teide National Park were ordered to leave.

Until last night, firefighters had found it nearly impossible to control the blaze due to its strength and characteristics.

“The fire had us in check for three days. Its behavior has been anomalous for what we know on the Canary Islands,” Miguel Martin Blanco, forest fire coordinator, told Television Canaria. “That’s because we started in conditions of prolonged drought and a very intense heat wave that dried out a forest that usually helps stop fires, turning it into an accelerator.”

Blanco added that the topography of Tenerife, which includes Spain’s highest mountain, combined with the climate conditions to create “very dangerous cocktail” that even spurred flammagenitus (fire) clouds, which complicated extinction efforts.

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