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Massive Wildfire Ravages Tenerife: Thousands Evacuated and Confined Amidst Increasing Risk




A rampant wildfire, described as one of the most challenging in recent history, has been tearing through the mountainous regions of Tenerife, Spain. Since igniting in a nature reserve on the northeast coast, it has devastated significant portions of the island, prompting widespread evacuations and confinements.

The Intensifying Situation

  • The wildfire has consumed over 8 sq km (800 hectares) since its onset late on Tuesday evening.
  • Authorities have evacuated five villages, including Arrate, Chivisaya, Media Montaña, Ajafoña, and Las Lagunitas, affecting nearly 8,000 individuals.
  • Air travel remains unaffected with both of Tenerife’s airports operating as usual.
  • Photos depict massive flames swallowing parts of the forest, accompanied by dense smoke filling the sky.

The Challenges in Containment

Firefighters, supported by helicopters spraying water, are grappling with the wildfire’s spread through challenging terrains like woodland, ravines, and the vicinity of the Mount Teide volcano, Spain’s loftiest peak. Rosa Davila, president of the Tenerife Council, remarked on the dire need for aerial assistance due to the terrain’s steepness. Pedro Martinez, chief of Tenerife’s emergency services, confirmed the emergence of multiple secondary fires further complicating the containment efforts.

Local Reactions

Residents have described harrowing experiences with Alba Gil, from the village of La Esperanza, depicting the atmosphere as suffocating and mentioning how her family stayed awake until early morning, anxious about the approaching flames. Similarly, local resident Celestino Suarez expressed concerns over the visibly daunting firewall.

Underlying Causes and Global Implications

Recently, heat waves made worse by climate change caused by humans have led to an increase in wildfires in many parts of the world. The Canary Islands, including Tenerife, are also experiencing this issue. Just a month ago, La Palma, another island in the Canary Group, had a similar problem that forced thousands of people to leave their homes.

  • Since the start of the industrial age, the world’s temperature has gone up about 1.1C. This has resulted in more frequent and severe heat waves.
  • The use of fossil fuels is a major cause of climate change, which has worsened extreme weather conditions all over the world.
  • This summer, other areas like southern Europe, northern Africa, Canada, and Hawaii have also seen lots of wildfires.
  • According to the European Forest Fire Information System, Spain accounted for nearly 40% of the area burned in the European Union in 2022.

Looking Forward

Authorities remain vigilant, deploying significant resources, including 17 aircraft and a combined force of 350 firefighters and military personnel. As the weekend approaches with a forecast of rising temperatures, the urgency to control the wildfire intensifies. The Tenerife Tourism office has meanwhile tried to assuage concerns by emphasizing that the primary tourist destinations, far removed from the wildfire’s epicenter, continue to operate normally. However, with current predictions, this fire might go down as Spain’s most devastating blaze this summer.

Preventive Measures and Public Alertness

All mountain access, including popular sites like Mount Teide and the Teide Astrophysics Institute, has been temporarily halted to ensure public safety. Authorities are urging citizens to remain updated through public service alerts, given the unpredictable nature of the blaze and the potential for further evacuations.

Even though the main tourist spots in Tenerife are still up and running, there’s a general feeling of carefulness and watchfulness. The authorities are doing their best to keep people updated about the wildfire’s movement, advising everyone to be more alert than usual. Lots of residents are using public service messages, radio news, and local TV stations to stay up-to-date.