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WILDFIRES

Gomera park chief believes fire is work of arsonists out to destroy Garajonay

Ongoing blaze was attempt to wipe out one of Europe's great natural wonders, says official

María Sosa Troya

A top park official in the Canary island of La Gomera said Friday that they believe that the raging fire that has been burning uncontrollably since August 4 was the work of arsonists attempting to destroy one of the greatest natural wonders in the European Union — the Garajonay National Park.

For the past year, officials have recorded 30 attempts to set fire to the park. The blaze has so far destroyed 800 hectares of the Garajonay.

“We cannot forget that this was the work of environmental terrorists, and these criminals have been trying to do this since the month of May,” said Ángel Fernández, the park’s director. “Since then we have been able to stamp out various blazes but this time they accomplished what they set out to do.”

The fire, which has forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents in different areas of La Gomera, has destroyed some 4,200 hectares of the island — 800 inside the park’s jurisdiction.

“It is just an estimate but this is a barbarity, seeing that Garajonay is one of the smallest natural parks. That figure represents 20 percent of the park’s 4,000 hectares,” he said.

Meanwhile, Canary Islands regional premier Paulino Rivero accused Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of ignoring the emergency in La Gomera. “This is the first time I have encountered a Spanish government that has no interest in asking me what is happening,” he said after attending an emergency regional cabinet meeting.

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