The Canary Island of La Gomera has lost 11% of its surface area to wildfires in recent weeks as a result of what one official has described as 'environmental terrorism'.
Residents are furious at the lack of government response from the Spanish mainland. According to El Pais, the Agriculture and Environment Minister Miguel Arias Cañete insisted that his department had made "no errors in its handling of the blaze". He further insisted that the terrible damage to the island at the height of the tourist season had nothing to do with massive spending cuts put in place by the government. The Minister blamed the Canaries regional Government for the slow response to the fire on La Gomera.
An official on La Gomera said on August 17 that the fire, which has been burning out of control since August 4, was deliberately set by arsonists trying to destroy the beautiful Garajonay National Park, considered one of the areas of outstanding beauty in Europe and awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The Park's director, Ángel Fernández described the arsonists as "environmental terrorists".Euronews reports that several people have been questioned by officials regarding the fires but so far no arrests have been made. The fires are gradually being controlled by fire crews using fire fighting planes and helicopters.
The Vancouver Sun reports that help has been sent from Morocco in the form of two water bombing planes to help fight the fire. It is hoped that this extra help plus a drop in temperatures will enable fire crews to extinguish the blaze that has brought devastation to the island and had forced the evacuation by ferry of around 1,000 people who are slowly being allowed to return to the island as the fire gradually comes under control.
This year has been a bad one for wildfires both on the Spanish mainland and on the Canary islands due to a dry winter and very high summer temperatures. So far, two firefighters have been killed. The fact that the fires have occurred at the height of the tourist season has made the blow to the islanders even harder.