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Wildfire on Gran Canaria forces thousands to evacuate

By Nicholas Sakelaris

Aug. 19 (UPI) -- More than 700 firefighters are trying to put out a wildfire on the Spanish vacation island of Gran Canaria, where officials say about 5,000 people have been evacuated so far.

Officials said the fire is "extremely fierce" and "unstable." In addition to the hundreds of firefighters on the ground, there are 14 aircraft trying to douse the flames from above. The flames soared so high -- up to 160 feet -- that water-dropping planes couldn't operate in some places, officials said.

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Authorities said it could be several days before the fire is under control, with summer temperatures rising Monday. The fire is burning in the mountainous region of the island known for offering spectacular ocean views.

"The next few hours will be very important because the weather forecast for the night is not good," Canary Islands President Angel Victor Torres said earlier Monday.

Most tourists stay at beach resorts rather than in the central mountains, where the fire is burning.

Firefighters had just put out another wildfire in the Canary Islands last week. With about 850,000 people, Gran Canaria is the second most populous of the seven Canary Islands.

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