UP to 26,000 people may have been evacuated as a wildfire continues to sweep across the Spanish island of Tenerife.

Some 5,000 hectares across 11 municipalities have been incinerated since the fire broke out on the night of August 15.

The Minister of Social Welfare, Candelaria Delgado, has estimated the number of evacuees at 26,000, in the municipalities of La Orotava, La Matanza, La Victoria, El Sauzal, Guimar, Arafo, Candelaria, Santa Ursula, Tacoronte, El Rosario and Los Realejos

Earlier today this number of evacuated had stood at an estimated 8,500, but the new figure has been calculated using census data.

The fire, which started on Mount Arafo in Northern Tenerife, continues uncontrolled and now has a perimeter of 50 kilometres.

The acting interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, who visited the island today, said: “We have all the necessary material means to control the fire.

“We can feel reasonably safe and we hope that in the next few days we can get the fire under control and that the weather conditions improve.”

Canary Islands Minister Manuel Miranda explained that new evacuations were ordered today after an overnight weather change, with an SMS being sent to people in the affected area telling them to leave their homes under firefighters’ supervision.

Those in municipalities nearest the fire front were evacuated first.

As the fire approached, people in La Orotava, Santa Ursula and Los Realejos were asked to clear a 15 metre strip of dead and dry vegetation from around their houses, remove any gas cylinders from gardens and outhouses and close all doors and windows before their potential evacuation.

At the moment there are 13 planes and helicopters from the Ministry of Ecological Transition operating, and forestry firefighting service Infoca has three planes in operation with two more on the way.

Around 500 firefighters and soldiers with 46 vehicles are also involved in the firefighting.

“A fire of this scale has never been seen in the Canary Islands as long as we’ve been keeping records,” said Rosa Davila fromTenerife’s council.

Canary Islands President Fernando Clavijo said: “The meteorological conditions last night were frankly severe … The wind, hot temperatures and circumstances were much worse than we forecast, causing the fire to spill over to the north.”

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