More than 2000 people in flames in La Palma: ‘fire has got out of hand’ | Abroad

With video/updateA forest fire broke out on the Canary Island of La Palma on Saturday. About 4500 hectares were affected by the fire and more than 2000 people had to be evacuated from the fire. “The fire has gotten out of hand,” Canary Islands president Fernando Clavijo said, according to public broadcaster RTVC.

Foreign teachers

Latest update:
15-07-23, 23:10

The fire was fanned by strong winds in a wooded area in the municipality of Punta Gorda, north of the island of Spain. Clavijo said earlier in the day that eleven houses were affected. If citizens are told to evacuate the area, they are asked to listen very carefully to the authorities. Earlier, there was resistance from residents who did not want to leave their homes.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez pledged his support for La Palma on Twitter. Reinforcements are sent from mainland Spain. The Defense Ministry said 120 soldiers have arrived with fire extinguishers. According to Clavijo, 300 firefighters are active and ten aircraft are being used to fight the fire from the air.

From volcanoes to forest fires

Tonight, however, the helicopters will stop flying because it’s getting too dark, says TPO editor-in-chief Bert Bruson, who has lived on the island for years now. The fire can’t be seen from his home in the eastern part of La Palma, but it can be seen in the capital, Santa Cruz.

“We certainly didn’t have that volcano two years ago,” he says, referring to the 2021 eruption of Cambrai Vieja, which affected some of the same areas as the wildfires now. Lost, now has a new home, where the forest fire is now. Some of the people here already have very little, they lost everything then and now.”

The lava from that eruption covered 1,219 hectares, approximately 1.7 percent of La Palma’s total surface. The current fire has so far affected more than 6 percent of the island’s surface.


The wind is still strong on the island. Winds – still blowing from the north – are feared to send the flames towards more populated areas. “There’s not much they can do tonight, and it’s a little scary,” Bruson says. “Now the fire is going up the volcano, which is a big natural park. A few years ago they also had a big forest fire. The destruction of nature is really huge.”

Officials said there was a risk of the fire spreading further west due to some wind. This is taken into account when switching off. Copernicus, the European forest fire monitoring program that works with satellites, is also being used to fight the fires, according to the Spanish government.

Clouds of smoke over La Palma, Punta Gorda, Canary Islands, Spain.
Clouds of smoke over La Palma, Punta Gorda, Canary Islands, Spain. © ANP/EPA

Scorching heat

The mayor of Punta Gorda, Vicente Rodríguez, told Spanish broadcaster RTVE that, like parts of the Spanish mainland, there has been less than average rainfall in recent years due to changing weather patterns linked to climate change.

The south of Europe suffers from extreme heat and severe drought, ideal conditions for wildfires. In Greece and Italy, the government is already warning against it. In Italy, the Ministry of Health has declared red for Sunday in sixteen cities, the highest weather alert. In the coming days, the European temperature record of 48.8 degrees may be broken in Sicily.

In Croatia, the fire brigade had to return to control a large forest fire on Friday. In France, a 19-year-old firefighter volunteer died while fighting a forest fire, according to Interior Minister Gérard Darmanin. Japan and the US will also experience heat waves this weekend with temperatures reaching 40 degrees.

Countries around the Mediterranean were also hot on Friday. In Greece and Italy many people became ill. Near Milan, a man was exposed to the sun while working outside. Spain also has very high temperatures. Officials advise citizens to drink plenty of water, seek shade, and avoid running, for example. Overtime workers are not allowed to work between 12:00 and 17:00 hrs.

Smoke rises from a forest fire in Punta Gorda, La Palma.
Smoke rises from a forest fire in Punta Gorda, La Palma. © ANP/EPA

European temperature record

According to the European Space Agency ESA, the European temperature record of 48.8 degrees may even be broken. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Europe was measured near Syracuse on the Italian island of Sicily in August 2021.

The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts had already reported June as the ‘hottest month on record globally’. It’s no different on the other side of the Mediterranean. Last week was extremely hot in Algeria, with the country’s Atrar city recording a minimum overnight temperature of 39.6 degrees. Very high temperatures are also expected elsewhere in Europe, for example Poland and the rest of the world (including China and the southern United States).

According to scientists, the heat is caused by the natural phenomenon El Niño, which is amplified by climate change. Experts predict that such periods of exceptionally hot weather will become more common, and it’s no surprise that record-breaking temperatures continue to be measured. For many southern Europeans – and millions of holidaymakers – the cold air is not an option, so get used to it.

A swimmer takes a bath in Athens, Greece.
A swimmer takes a bath in Athens, Greece. © AB

Firefighters battle wildfires in California's Moreno Valley.
Firefighters battle wildfires in California’s Moreno Valley. ©AFP

Check out our most viewed news videos in the playlist below:

Check Also

The chances of a soft economic landing shrink by the week

The chances of a soft economic landing shrink by the week

economy•25 Jul ’23 at 12:42•Modified on 25 Jul ’23 at 14:29Author of the book: Remy …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *