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Wildfire on Spain’s Tenerife island slows advance, no new evacuations


By Borja Suarez and Corina Pons

TENERIFE, Canary Islands, Spain (Reuters) – A wildfire that has blanketed much of the Spanish island of Tenerife with smoke and ash has slowed its advance thanks to containment efforts and more favourable weather during the night, authorities said on Friday.

The blaze broke out on Wednesday in a mountainous national park around the Mount Teide volcano – Spain’s highest peak – amid hot and dry weather and burned through nearly 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) of vegetation.

More than 3,000 people were evacuated from their homes as a precaution on Thursday, although no buildings have been destroyed.

Fernando Clavijo, regional leader of the Canary Islands, said there were no more evacuations overnight and officials were considering lifting restrictions on almost 4,000 residents who had been ordered to stay home.

“The fire and the weather have behaved in a more normal fashion after showing very unusual behaviour earlier. We’ve managed to work more intensely during the night … preparing containment lines on the ground,” he told a news conference.

“The good news is that there have been no new evacuations,” added Clavijo. He has called the wildfire the most complex the Atlantic Ocean archipelago has faced in 40 years, due to a combination of hot, dry and windy weather, as well as difficult terrain.

Officials warned, however, that wind could fan the flames during the day.

The fire started in several places by a motorway, meaning it could have been caused by human activity, deliberately or not, authorities have said.

All access to Tenerife’s mountains, including Mount Teide and the Teide Astrophysics Institute, has been closed off to prevent any incidents.

The island’s two airports were operating normally.

Scorching heat and dry weather this summer have contributed to unusually severe wildfires in Europe and Canada. Devastating blazes on Hawaii’s Maui island earlier this month killed more than 110 people and wrecked the historic resort city of Lahaina.

Scientists say climate change, driven by fossil fuel use, has led to more frequent and more powerful extreme weather events.

The Canary Islands typically experience spring-like temperatures all year and are looking to market themselves as a refuge from other tourist destinations seeing punishing heat.

But temperatures on the islands rose above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) during a heatwave last week, leaving many areas bone dry. On Friday, Spain’s AEMET weather service expected maximum temperatures of 32C in Tenerife.

(Writing by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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