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Canary Islands Wildfires Force 4,700 To Flee 

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Old 08-12-2012, 11:00 AM
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Canary Islands Wildfires Force 4,700 To Flee

Wildfires raging on the Spanish Canary Islands of La Gomera and Tenerife have forced more than 4,700 people to flee in two days, authorities have said.

Firefighters battling the blazes on the islands off Morocco were up against "high temperatures, low humidity and wind" that fanned the flames, regional economy minister Javier Gonzalez Ortiz said.

Hundreds of firefighters are also battling a blaze near Greece's Mount Athos, a World Heritage site housing an ancient monastic community.

A heatwave originating from North Africa that follows Spain's driest winter in seven decades has shown no sign of letting up.

On La Gomera, the most devastating fires in a decade have ravaged some 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) of land, including about one-tenth of the Garajonay nature reserve, also a World Heritage site.

About 2,500 people from 13 villages in the island's west and southwest were evacuated as a precaution.

On the other Canaries island of Tenerife, more than 2,200 people were moved from their homes.

"The fires are still burning on three fronts," an emergency services spokesman said earlier.

"There is no positive change for the moment."

Water-dropping aircraft again flew missions as fresh blazes erupted in the Garajonay reserve, home to rare subtropical forests which have around 450 plant species.

Ventura del Carmen Rodriguez, the island's environment secretary, said last week it would take between 30 and 40 years for Garajonay's burned areas to recover.

A wave of hot weather from Africa last week pushed temperatures past 40C (104F), boosting the risk of more fires.

Between January 1 and July 29, wildfires destroyed 130,830 hectares of vegetation in Spain, according to the agriculture ministry.

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