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Thousands flee from ‘monster’ wildfire on Canary Islands

By BARRY HATTON

Associated Press

LISBON, Portugal — An out-of-control wildfire in Spain’s Canary Islands was throwing flames 50 meters (160 feet) into the air on Monday, forcing emergency workers to evacuate more than 9,000 people, authorities said.

The blaze — described by the local fire department as “a monster” — was racing across parched woodlands into Tamadaba Natural Park, regarded as one of the jewels on Gran Canaria, a mountainous volcanic island in the Atlantic Ocean archipelago off northwest Africa.

Famous for its beaches and mountains, Gran Canaria and its capital, Las Palmas, are popular European vacation destinations but the blaze was in a rugged inland area. No hotels were reported evacuated.

Canary Islands President Angel Victor Torres said 1,100 firefighters were being deployed in shifts along with 16 water-dropping aircraft to battle the blaze that started Saturday afternoon. The local government said around 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres) had been charred in just 48 hours, villages were evacuated and two dozen roads were closed.

Emergency workers faced huge flames and gusting winds that blew embers into the air, starting secondary fires, local fire officials said. Summer temperatures Monday were expected to hit 36 degrees Celsius (nearly 97 degrees Fahrenheit) and build to 38 C (100 F) later this week.

The Spanish caretaker government’s farm minister, Luis Planas, told a news conference in Las Palmas that Madrid sent a “cutting-edge” drone to the island that can livestream images of the fire at night. One aircraft on Gran Canaria also coordinated aviation movements to prevent an accident in the busy skies, he said.