Wildfires that continue to rage across La Gomera and Tenerife have forced more than 4,700 people to leave their homes and fire-fighters are still battling to get the flames under control.
A heatwave originating from north Africa is contributing to the problem bringing high temperatures, low humidity and wind, making it difficult for local authorities to contain the blazes although none of Tenerife’s most popular tourist resorts have been affected.
Hundreds of firemen have also been battling a blaze near Greece’s Mount Athos, a World Heritage site housing an ancient monastic community although the situation has improved thanks to overnight rain at the weekend.
Spain has had its driest winter in 70 years and there are no signs of the drought letting up before the end of the summer.
On La Gomera, wildfires have ravaged some 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) of land, including an area totalling about 10% of the Garajonay nature reserve, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Garajonay is home to rare subtropical forests and flora and fauna, making the situation a tragedy for the local ecology.
About 2,500 people from 13 villages in the west and southwest of the island have been evacuated as a safety precaution. The fires will have “incalculable consequences” for the island’s natural environment and the regional government is predicting it may take “decades to recover”.
Various wildfires all over Spain including Galicia in the north have destroyed a total of 130,830 hectares of vegetation during the month of July, according to the agriculture ministry.