Gran Canaria: 9,000 flee 'unprecedented' wildfires on holiday island

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media captionWildfires rip through Gran Canaria

About 9,000 people have been evacuated as wildfires rip through Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands.

The fires, which started on Saturday, are advancing on two fronts in a mountainous area of the island.

In a press conference on Monday, authorities called the incident "an unprecedented environmental tragedy".

Efforts to tackle the fires are being hampered by high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity, officials said.

About 14 planes and helicopters, as well as about 700 firefighters on the ground including 200 from the military, have been deployed.

The blaze has so far spared residential areas and tourist hotspots, but has spread into the island's Tamadaba natural park, home to some of the island's oldest pine forests.

"The fire is not contained nor stabilised or controlled," Canary Islands regional president Angel Victor Torres told a news conference on Sunday.

image copyrightReuters
image captionPlanes and helicopters have been deployed to tackle the blazes
image copyrightEPA
image captionThe fires are threatening old areas of pine forest

In some areas, the flames were so high that water-dropping planes were unable to operate.

The fires started near the town of Tejeda. Overnight, the affected area increased from 3400 to 6000 hectares and flames as high as 50 metres (164 ft) were reported.

Requests for assistance had been made to the Spanish central government, Mr Torres added.

Hundreds of people were evacuated due to separate wildfires on the holiday island last week.

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