AN enormous wildfire on La Palma in the Canary Islands is currently out of control and advancing southwards, towards the town of Fuencaliente, with 2,500 residents already having been evacuated from the villages of El Charco, Las Indias, Los Quemados, Los Canarios, Tacande, San Nicolas and Jedey.
The disastrous blaze was sparked in bizarre circumstances, as a 27-year-old German national allegedly set fire to some toilet paper after relieving himself in the woods near a cave in which he apparently lives, because he didn’t want to leave rubbish behind.
He has now been arrested under charges of negligence, with the resultant inferno having already claimed the life of a 54-year-old park ranger who was helping to fight the sea of flames, leading to Spain’s acting president, Mariano Rajoy, to tweet his condolences.
Several hundred firefighters and other emergency services staff are battling the blaze, although Canary Islands president, Fernando Clavijo, has warned that “it will not be easy” to extinguish the fire, and that it is likely to take “several days,” with the emphasis on control at the moment, as residents across the island have been asked to stay in their homes due to the profusion of smoke and ash in the air.
Water-carrying aircraft were forced to the ground at around 9pm on Thursday, May 4, leaving those on the ground to continue the fight into the night, with the conflagration having already consumed some 2,000 hectares of land, with the extreme dry conditions and strong winds favouring its rapid expansion.
The inferno began on Wednesday, and is already the largest wildfire to hit the Canaries since 2012, while an even larger blaze hit more-or-less the same area on La Palma in 2009.