By Nacho Doce
TENERIFE, Canary Islands, Spain (Reuters) – Firefighters on Monday battled to stabilise a huge wildfire that has devastated forests on the Spanish island of Tenerife for six days and forced thousands to evacuate their homes.
The fire that started last Tuesday night has so far ravaged some 12,800 hectares of woodland within the national park surrounding the Teide volcano, Spain’s highest peak.
Efforts to extinguish it have been hampered by the difficult terrain – made up of steep ravines and cliffs – and a recent heatwave leaving the pine forest bone dry.
“The worst is behind us,” the Canary Islands’ regional leader Fernando Clavijo said on Monday morning on Cadena SER radio station.
“Today, we will keep on working, consolidating perimeters. We cannot talk about control yet, we’ll see if we can stabilise all the fronts,” he added.
Authorities on Sunday allowed some of the 12,000 people evacuated from the villages of Arafo and Candelaria to return to their homes, Clavijo said.
“We are evaluating, as the northeastern part has cooled down, and we’re hoping the reconnaissance flights will allow us to give the evacuees good news,” he said.
Clavijo added the fire was almost certainly man-made and said police were investigating to identify and capture the arsonists.
Meanwhile, national weather agency AEMET said a new heatwave would sweep over mainland Spain on Monday, further heightening the risk of wildfires there.
However, AEMET said there was a chance Tenerife would see some rainfall later on Monday. (This story has been corrected to rectify the first name of Canary Islands leader to Fernando Clavijo in paragraph 4)
(Reporting by Nacho Doce, Writing by Inti Landauro, Editing by David Latona and Sharon Singleton)
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