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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 August 2007, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
PM visits fire-ravaged Canaries
Forest fires on the islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has arrived in the Canary Islands to inspect the damage caused by five days of forest fires.

More than 12,000 people have fled their homes on the islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife, where fires have burnt 35,000 hectares (86,000 acres) of land.

The fires are now under control, but the situation remains dangerous as more high temperatures are expected.

Wildfires have also hit Greece amid a summer heatwave across southern Europe.

Record temperatures in southern Europe have been blamed for recent forest fires in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia and Italy.

In Greece, the government has declared a state of emergency in another popular tourist destination, the island chain known as the Cyclades, because of severe water shortages.

Arrest

Hundreds of firefighters, backed up by helicopters and water planes, have been fighting the fires in the Canaries which are mainly burning inland.

Fires in the Canary Islands

Paulino Rivero, head of the regional government, said: "These are the biggest fires on the archipelago in the last 10 years," he said.

"The rugged landscape of these islands makes firefighting very complicated, except from the air.

"But while there is a lot of wind and very high temperatures, helicopters generally cannot operate."

Mr Zapatero postponed a planned trip to Barcelona to visit the Canary Islands, one of Spain's top tourist destinations,

Environment Minister Cristina Narbona called a state of "maximum alert" and ordered more water-bombing planes to help douse the fires.

On Saturday, police arrested a forest ranger on Gran Canaria who admitted to starting one of the fires.

The 37-year-old man told police his job contract was about to expire and he wanted to keep working, according to the AP news agency.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Fires rage across the Canary Islands



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