Firefighters Make Progress against Gran Canaria Blaze


Firefighters hoped to bring under control on Monday a fire raging on the Spanish holiday island of Gran Canaria which sparked the evacuation of hundreds of people, local officials said.

"We expect that during the day we will gradually control the front that is still active," Angel Victor Torres, the president of the regional government of the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic off the northwest coast of Africa, told a news conference.

"This will be a difficult job because we are fighting against the wind and the lack of water and rain," he added.

Some 250 firefighters and soldiers were battling the blaze, which erupted Saturday in the western municipality of Artenara near the provincial capital of Las Palmas.

Thirteen water bomber planes and helicopters were mobilized to help contain the wildfire which has so far affected around 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of land, local emergency services said on Twitter.

Some 1,000 residents were evacuated over the weekend due to the threat from the flames but many were allowed to return to their homes on Monday. No one has been injured by the fire.

Police said they had detained a man on Saturday who is suspected of having started the fire by using welding equipment. 

Officials said the mountainous landscape of the volcanic island, a part of which was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in July, had complicated the fight against the blaze which was now burning with less intensity.

Temperatures are forecast to rise in the coming days in Gran Canaria, the second-most populous of the Canary Islands, which will make it "more difficult to completely extinguish the fire," Torres said.

Spain, the world's second most popular tourist destination, is frequently plagued by huge forest fires because of its arid climate in summer.

The Canary Islands received 13.7 foreign visitors last year, over half of them from Britain and Germany.