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Canary Islands

Tourists evacuating "La Isla Bonita”

Aug 04, 2009

La Palma is called “La Isla Bonita,” but these days, a raging wild fire is anything but beautiful.

Dozens of tourists are among 4,000 people evacuated from Spain’s La Palma in the Canary Islands due to a huge forest fire raging since the weekend.

A change in wind direction and cooler temperatures Monday helped firefighters to try to control flames that erupted over the weekend on La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean.

Dozens of residents have lost their homes to the flames and tourists have been forced out of hotels and some have missed flights.

“We woke up in the early hours of Saturday morning to very, very thick, choking smoke from fires,” said British vacationer Cath Watkin to BBC. “The fire was actually very close. The hotel is actually at the bottom of the mountain, the first were raging on the mountain behind the mountain.”

Spanish Prime Minister José Luís Zapatero arrived Monday to the popular tourist destination to get a first-hand look at the damage. Fresh teams of firefighters and improving weather are helping to control the blaze, officials said.

Officials believe that fireworks from a local fiesta might have caused the blaze, which so far has engulfed more than 4,000 hectares and continues to burn out of control.

The popular destination spot of Mazo is among the areas affected.

La Palma is one of Spain’s least developed Canary Islands, attracting a small percentage of the high number of tourists that travel to nearby islands of Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote.

Satellite images show a huge plume of smoke rising from island and blotting out images of the nearby La Gomera island.

Tourists evacuating "La Isla Bonita”
Fires rage on Spain's La Palma island / Image via AP


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