Thousands flee 'monster' wildfire on Gran Canaria

An out-of-control wildfire in Spain's Canary Islands that is throwing flames 160 feet into the air has forced emergency services to evacuate more than 9,000 people from Gran Canaria.

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 north-west Africa.

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En esta foto difundida por el cabildo de Gran Canaria se ve un incendio cerca de unas casas en El Rincón, en la isla de España, el domingo 18 de agosto de 2019. (Cabildo de Gran Canaria vía AP)
En esta foto difundida por el cabildo de Gran Canaria se ve un incendio cerca de unas casas en El Rincón, en la isla de España, el domingo 18 de agosto de 2019. (Cabildo de Gran Canaria vía AP)
El incendio en Gran Canaria, España, el 11 de agosto del 2019. (Guardia Civil de España, Via AP)
TOPSHOT - A helicopter drops water over a forest fire raging in the Moya mountains on the island of Gran Canaria on August 19, 2019. - A wildfire raged out of control on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, forcing more evacuations as flames in some parts rose so high even water-dropping planes were unable to operate, authorities said. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read DESIREE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents look at smoke billowing from a forest fire raging in the Moya mountains on the island of Gran Canaria on August 19, 2019. - A wildfire raged out of control on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, forcing more evacuations as flames in some parts rose so high even water-dropping planes were unable to operate, authorities said. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read DESIREE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke billows from a forest fire raging in Artenara on the island of Gran Canaria on August 19, 2019. - A wildfire raged out of control on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, forcing more evacuations as flames in some parts rose so high even water-dropping planes were unable to operate, authorities said. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read DESIREE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
GRAN CANARIA, SPAIN - AUGUST 18: Fire of Gran Canaria during the second day on August 18, 2019 in Gran Canaria, Spain. (Photo by Europa Press News/Europa Press via Getty Images)
Flames and smoke from a forest fire are seen in the village of Guia, in the Canary Island of Gran Canaria, Spain, August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Borja Suarez
Flames and smoke from a forest fire are seen in the village of Moya, in the Canary Island of Gran Canaria, Spain, August 18, 2019. REUTERS/Borja Suarez
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Famous for its beaches and mountains, Gran Canaria and its capital, Las Palmas, are popular holiday destinations for Britons and others across Europe.

The blaze is in a rugged inland area.

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 on Saturday afternoon.

The local government said around 14,800 acres had been burned in just 48 hours. Villages were evacuated and two dozen roads were closed, it added.

Emergency workers faced huge flames and gusting winds that blew embers into the air, starting secondary blazes, local fire officials said.

Summer temperatures on Monday were expected to hit 36C (nearly 97F) and build to 38C (100F) later this week.

A helicopter operates over the Gran Canaria wildfire
A helicopter operates over the wildfire (Arturo Jimenez/AP)

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.

Mr Planas said the official response to the fire on Gran Canaria was one of the greatest firefighting deployments recently in all of Spain.

Gran Canaria is the third largest island in the Canary Islands archipelago, which is 93 miles west of Africa. It has a population of 850,000.

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