Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wildfire threatens World Heritage Site on Canary island

LA GOMERA, Spain — A wildfire raged Monday on Spain's Canary Island of La Gomera which burnt down several homes and raced through a national park housing a rare subtropical forest, officials said.

Deep ravines made it difficult to fight the blaze, which erupted on Saturday and has affected 3,100 hectares (7,400 acres) of land, including 350 hectares, or nine percent, of the Garajonay national park, a World Heritage Site.

"The ravines act as genuine chimneys for the fire when the wind blows and this complicates the task of getting the fire under control," the head of the islands' government, Paulino Rivero, told reporters.

By late Monday firefighters, aided by cooler temperatures and higher air humidity levels, had managed to stop the advance of the flames at Garajonay, the regional government said in a statement.

The national park was added to UN cultural body UNESCO's World Heritage list for its rare subtropical forests which covered the Mediterranean millions of years ago but have now largely disappeared.

It is home to 450 plant species, including eight that are found only in the park. Read More