Gran Canaria towns evacuated as wildfire rages

Wildfires around the Mediterranean

Wildfires around the Mediterranean

An emergency has been declared in Gran Canaria, with the tourist hotspot suffering from out-of-control wildfires that have overwhelmed the island.

Ten water bomber planes and helicopters have been mobilised to help contain the fires before the sun went down and winds picked up again.

Around 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) have so far been destroyed in the fire, which erupted Saturday in the western municipality of Artenara near the provincial capital of Las Palmas. "We continue working and fighting for our island".

About 1,000 people from several villages have been forced to flee, many spending the night in sports centres, schools and community halls.

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Given the seriousness of the situation the Canary Island government called for assistance from the Emergencies Military Unit, which has sent in about 30 personnel and eight support vehicles.

Police said they believe the fire was started by someone using a soldering iron tool.

Carla Rodriguez, who was heading to Juncalillo for a festival, described the scene as "one of the most painful images I've seen in my life". A 55-year-old man was arrested by the Civil Guard on suspicion of reckless behaviour.

The volcanic island is a popular summer destination for Britons, with almost a million United Kingdom tourists estimated to visit the island every year.

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