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Spanish authorities evacuate some 500 people to escape a wildfire on the Canary island of La Palma

Spanish authorities say that they have preemptively evacuated some 500 people to avoid a wildfire that has broken out on the Canary island of La Palma

ByJOSEPH WILSON Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish authorities have preemptively evacuated some 500 people to avoid a wildfire that has broken out on the Canary island of La Palma.

The regional president of the Canary Islands, Fernando Clavijo, said Saturday that, in addition to forcing the removal of the residents, the blaze has destroyed at least 11 homes within the relatively small burned zone of 140 hectares (345 acres). He warned that the number of evacuees could easily increase.

“With the resources that we are deploying, we hope we can control the fire today, but the winds are shifting,” Clavijo said. “More gusting winds are expected and, combined with the dryness of the terrain and the lack of rain, this situation is complicated.”

Spain’s army has deployed 150 of its firefighters to help local crews battle the blaze. More local firefighters are arriving on boats from the neighboring island of Tenerife, according to Clavijo.

The fire is on the western side of the island on wooded, hilly terrain dotted with homes. It is not an area that was directly impacted by the 2021 volcano eruption.

Puntagorda mayor, Vicente Rodríguez, told Spanish public broadcaster RTVE that the fire started inside the limits of his municipality. He added that the area has seen below-average rainfall in recent years, just like large parts of the drought-stricken mainland, due to changing weather patterns impacted by climate change.

The fire coincides with a heatwave that is hitting southern Europe.

Spain saw record high temperatures in 2022 and this spring as it endures a prolonged drought. Authorities and forestry experts are concerned that the conditions are ripe for a difficult wildfire campaign after seeing virulent fires as early as March.

La Palma, with a population of 85,000, is one of eight members of Spain’s Canary Islands archipelago off Africa’s western coast. At their nearest point, the islands are 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Morocco.

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