Thousands evacuated in Spain forest fires

MADRID Sun Aug 12, 2012 6:59am EDT

1 of 3. Firefighters work to put out a fire in the forest area of La Cumbre, near Santiago del Teide, Spanish Canary island of Tenerife, August 11, 2012. About 90 hectares (222 acres) of land had been burnt in two wildfires in Tenerife island since Friday night, according to local media.

Credit: Reuters/Santiago Ferrero

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MADRID (Reuters) - More than 4,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in Spain's Canary Islands because of forest fires that are difficult to control due to a heatwave and strong winds, authorities said on Sunday.

The worst hit-areas are Tenerife, a popular tourist destination, and La Gomera, where temperatures have topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) since Friday, restarting fires that had been put out during the week after destroying more than 3,000 hectares of land since August 4.

The fires have destroyed 200 hectares of land in Tenerife and 470 hectares in La Gomera since Friday and some roads have been closed on both islands. Other areas, including the northern province of Galicia, have been affected by fires in the past few days.

Spain has already suffered a number of forest fires in various regions this year. Around 50,000 hectares of land were destroyed in the first five months of 2012, making this year the worst since 2002, according to the Environment Ministry.

Thousands were evacuated in Valencia in July, also a popular tourist area, and four French people died last month in fires in the border area between Catalonia and France.

The tourism sector has been a major engine of growth for the Spanish economy as it struggles with a painful recession that has left almost one in four jobless.

(Reporting by Inmaculada Sanz, Writing by Clare Kane)

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