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TENERIFE, Canary Islands, Spain – Thousands more people were evacuated from their homes on the Spanish island of Tenerife on Saturday, as a wildfire raging in the north of the island remained out of control, but the flames have so far avoided major tourist areas.

The Canary Islands emergency services said more than 26,000 people had been evacuated by Saturday afternoon, according to provisional estimates, a sharp rise from 4,500 on Friday.

Some 11 towns are now affected.

Fierce flames lit up the night sky overnight, and on Saturday helicopters were seen dropping water on areas close to homes where smoke was billowing into the air.

The blaze broke out on Wednesday in a mountainous national park around the Mount Teide volcano – Spain’s highest peak – amid hot and dry weather.

More evacuations were ordered on Saturday morning due to worsening weather overnight, including a rise in temperatures and stronger winds, regional leader Fernando Clavijo told a press conference.

He said thick smoke was hampering efforts to extinguish the fire from the air.

Some 5,000 hectares have been burned so far with a perimeter of 50km.

The fire was at a scale that has never been seen before in the Canary Islands, Tenerife Council president Rosa Davila told reporters.

She said the priority was to “protect people’s lives”.

The blaze has not destroyed any homes so far, she added, citing the fire brigade. Thousands more evacuated as wildfire burns out of control on Spain’s Tenerife

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