Gran Canaria wildfires

Thousands of people have been evacuated in the area around Valleseco
Thousands of people have been evacuated from dozens of towns on Gran Canaria as firefighters battle to contain out-of-control wildfires.

The fires, which broke out on Saturday for the second time in a week, have forced around 4,000 people to evacuate at least 40 towns near Valleseco, a town situated on the north of the popular tourist island.

They had spread in two different directions and razed more than 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) by Sunday afternoon, according to the island's provincial government.

There is currently a huge operation under way involving nine helicopters, two planes and 600 emergency responders to control the fires, which officials say has "great potential" to spread further.

Angel Victor Torres, the Canary Islands' regional president, told a news conference that the blaze was neither "contained nor stabilised or controlled".

He confirmed he had also requested help from the central government in Spain during a conversation with the country's acting prime minister, Pedro Sanchez.

"The environmental damage has already been done," Mr Torres was later reported as saying by the Europa Press Agency.

"We are facing a complicated situation in which the security of the people is the priority now."

On Twitter, he urged the "entire population" to follow safety instructions from emergency crews working to extinguish the blaze.

"They are doing everything possible, and more, to stop it," he wrote.

This is the second series of wildfires to rip through a similar area on the island in a week.

Last week's fire burned through 1,500 hectares (3,706 acres) of land, and forced the evacuation of 1,000 people.

Recent high temperatures on Gran Canaria, partnered with low humidity and strong winds, has created what experts would often call a "perfect storm" for large wildfires.

They are common in southern Europe during summer months, particularly with these hot and dry conditions.

gran canaria wildfires
© @CopernicusEMS
On Sunday, Spain's AEMET meteorological agency had placed nearly half the country's provinces on alert for a high risk of fires.