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Extreme weather: Tenerife firefighters hope to have the island's wildfires under control

A plane drops water on the flames of Tenerife's wildfire, August 18, 2023
A plane drops water on the flames of Tenerife's wildfire, August 18, 2023 Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By Euronews with AFP
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Hundreds of firefighters have been responding to the blaze on the Spanish holiday island of Tenerife as extreme weather brings a 40-degree heatwave to Switzerland

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Firefighters made progress on Friday in their fight against a huge wildfire on the Spanish holiday island of Tenerife that has forced the evacuation of thousands of people.

The fire, which broke out late on Tuesday, has been raging through a forested area with steep ravines in the northeastern part of the island which is part of the Spanish archipelago that lies off the coast of northwestern Africa.

450 firefighters

About 450 firefighters and soldiers backed by 16 aircraft were battling the blaze which has so far destroyed some 3,800 hectares (9,400) acres, the regional government of the archipelago said.

Officials said the wildfire -- which has a perimeter of 42 kilometres (26 miles) -- had advanced more slowly and predictably overnight, making it easier for crews to tackle the flames.

"This night at least the fire and the weather behaved normally," Fernando Clavijo, regional head of the seven-island archipelago, told a news conference.

"In the two previous nights the wind, temperatures and the behaviour of the fire were highly unusual," he added.

Some 3,000 residents in the area have been evacuated and around 4,000 others were ordered to stay indoors because of the fire, while access to the Mount Teide volcano, Spain's highest peak, was cut off.

3,000 residents evacuated

Some residents told Spanish media they were given just one hour to pack some belongings and leave their homes.

Ash from the wildfire fell on much of the island, and smoke from the blaze affecting nine municipalities could be seen in satellite imagery.

Clavijo has said this is the "most complex" wildfire in the Canary Islands "in at least the past 40 years" because of the topography of the area, high temperatures and winds that changed directions frequently.

The blaze broke out after the islands were hit by a heatwave that has left many areas tinder dry.

While air humidity levels rose overnight and winds calmed which helped firefighters battle the blaze, temperatures are once again expected to soar over the weekend in Tenerife.

As global temperatures rise due to climate change, scientists have warned heatwaves will become more frequent and intense, with a much wider impact.

Swiss heatwave

AFP
Swiss swimmers take to Lake Geneva to escape 40 C heatwaveAFP

Friday saw the residents of Geneva in Switzerland plunging into the lake for some relief from a 40C heatwave that is affecting the city.

It came as a surprise to one French tourist.

"I come from Montpellier where it's extremely hot, so it's true that I was surprised at how hot it's been this week in Geneva, I thought it was going to be a lot cooler."

One tourist said she had come from Montpellier in south-west France, hoping to escape the heat.

In 2022, a particularly bad year for wildfires in Europe, Spain was the worst-hit nation with nearly 500 blazes that destroyed more than 300,000 hectares, according to figures from the European Forest Fire Information System.

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So far this year, more than 71,000 hectares have been ravaged by fire in Spain, which is one of the European countries most vulnerable to climate change.

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