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1,000 flee as Gran Canaria ravaged by ‘ferocious’ fire

Destruction: Hills ablaze around Artenara, forcing islanders out of homes. A man, 55, has been arrested

A HUGE wildfire on Gran Canaria in Spain has forced the mass evacuation of residents and destroyed thousands of acres of land.

Around 200 firefighters and ten water-dumping aircraft were working to combat the blaze that started on Saturday and rapidly spread as the wind changed direction.

Televised images showed the ‘ferocious’ fire as it consumed 2,500 acres of hillside near Artenara. Yesterday, the island’s fire brigade tweeted: ‘We are overwhelmed by the situation. We continue 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. Spain’s military emergency unit specialising in fighting fires has also been deployed.

The blaze is believed to have been started by a welder using a soldering iron at a house. A 55-year-old man was arrested by the Civil Guard on suspicion of reckless behaviour.

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’.

Red Cross officials said two firefighters were treated for burns but no one else was injured. The island is visited by almost 1million Britons a year.