Sunday, August 23, 2020

Forest fire in La Gomera's national park

A fire has broken out in the beautiful Jardin de Las Creces area of La Gomera's ancient forest in the Garajonay national park. The alarm was raised around 9:30 pm last night and weather conditions were not helping the many fire brigade units that rushed to the area with winds gusting in excess of 60 km/h and very low relative humidity of less than 20% with temperatures of around 27ºC.

There is also a very large wildfire raging on the neighbouring island of La Palma where all available Canary Islands fire fighting resources have been sent over the past 48 hours plus three additional fire fighting aircraft from the Spanish mainland. Hundreds of people had to flee their homes there.

Last night La Gomera's emergency services evacuated elderly people and those with limited mobility from the village of Las Hayas which is closest to the fire and belongs to the municipality of Valle Gran Rey. All available resources in La Gomera were mobilised and the road between Arure an Las Hayas should be avoided to facilitate the transit of the emergency services there.

Initially 1.5 hectares of forest were reported to be affected in La Gomera last night but the terrain in the area is very abrupt and on a steep slope with difficult access for the fire crews. However, earlier this morning the fire has been declared ''stabilised, but not yet under control'', so let's hope that the rapid response by the fire services will help to avoid a similiar situation to that of the inferno of 2012, which was also preceded by a large blaze on La Palma island. 

Video of La Gomera's fire taken last night:

Posted by Manuel Manuel Padilla Padilla on Saturday, 22 August 2020 (click to view)

Since I got the news around midnight last night I've got this faint smell of burning heather-trees in my nose. I know it must be just the memory of 2012 when this was a dangerous reality for weeks, as I'm sitting in rainy Ireland now. The memory of having lived through the constant state of high alert until the final disaster during La Gomera's 2012 blaze is playing this trick on me.

I'll will update this post later, hopefully with good news.

UPDATE 1: It has just been reported that the firefighters on the ground will get support from the air, but no details were given.

UPDATE 2: One helicopter has been sent to fight La Gomera's fire.

UPDATE 3: La Gomera's island government has issued this additional statement in English: ''It is reported that as many forest tracks as the trails of the surrounding areas of Las Creces are closed. ▪ Tourist accommodations are called upon to communicate this information to their customers.'' (sic)

UPDATE 4: Work continues to control the fire. Meanwhile pictures of part of the affected area have been published by the Cabildo de La Gomera (island government) on their Twitter page:

...and here's another image of the area published by Canarian Weekly this morning:

UPDATE 5 (2:15pm): The situation is more ''stabilised'' now and the fire services are optimistic that the fire will be brought under control today. The affected area is more accessible now since a new access track has been cut into the forest and the helicopter is dumping water over the less accessible spots that are still burning. The evacuated villagers have been told that they can return home later this afternoon. However, the weather remains a worry with the nearest weather station at the graveyard of Arure reporting wind gusts in excess of 75km/h, very low humidity and temperatures over 30ºC.

UPDATE 6 : Thanks to the rapid intervention of the emergency services the fire in La Gomera has been declared ''under control'' and all that remains to be done is to extinguish the remaining hotspots and clearing smouldering timbers. 
In the neighbouring island of La Palma the huge blaze which burned 1200 hectares has been stabilised, but 400 firefighters and several helicopters and planes are still working to make sure none of the many hotspots and glowing embers will reignite the fire.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Masks now mandatory outdoors in Canaries (updated)

Masks were previously seen outdoors only during carnival 
season as in my archive image from a couple of years ago

Canarian Weekly reported last Thursday night:

...'' 2020/08/13, 19:17:13 by Canarian Weekly

As of tomorrow (Friday), masks are now mandatory in all public spaces, inside or outside, regardless of social distancing, as announced by the Canaries President, Angel Victor Torres, earlier today.

...Bars and restaurants are still allowed customers inside and outside to full capacity, as long as social distancing allows, with maximum group size of 10 people.

Masks must be worn by staff at all times, and by customers when not eating or drinking.

Terraces must be closed by 1.30am with last customers at 1.00am.

Smoking is not allowed on terraces unless people are 1.5 metres (2 m., Ed.) apart.

Clubs and nightclubs are reverting back to Junes rules when the state of alarm was lifted, meaning they can only open an 'open air' terrace to the public with maximum of 70% capacity. 

Again social distancing applies between tables, as does maximum group size of 10 people.

Terraces must be closed by 1.30am with last customers at 1.00am.

Smoking is not allowed outdoors unless people are 1.5 metres apart (it actually says 2 metres in the Spanish text,  Ed.), and masks must be worn by staff at all times, and by customers when not drinking.

Finally dance floors are still not permitted.

New fines and sanctions have been decreed, meaning that security and police forces have more means to enforce them for breach of regulations.''


The Official Gazette of the Canary Islands says regarding the mandatory use of masks, that it affects "all persons aged six and over", both "on public roads, in outdoor spaces and in any closed space for public use, or that is open to the public, regardless of maintaining an interpersonal safety distance of at least 1.5 metres."

Additional restrictions have been applied  Gran Canaria and Lanzarote, where a mask is required when sitting at a table and cannot be taken off except to physically eat and drink, and in the case if drinking it must be worn in between sips. This is not applicable elsewhere, ie Tenerife, Fuerteventura and the western Islands, but this is subject to change anytime it is deemed necessary.

As regards beaches and swimming pools, "the obligation to use a mask during swimming and while sunbathing and remaining in a certain space without moving, is excluded, and provided that respect for the interpersonal safety distance between all non-cohabiting users is maintained." 

However, the use of a mask is mandatory in the entrances and walkways when using these spaces and facilities.

Likewise, the decree states that "the owners of establishments, spaces and premises must guarantee compliance with these obligations in them."

It is also clarifies that "it is mandatory to use the mask correctly, and it must cover the nose and mouth completely at all times. Likewise, it must be properly adjusted to the nose and chin, so as to prevent the expulsion of respiratory secretions to the environment."

In the islands that exceed 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the cumulative incidence of cases diagnosed in the last 7 days, which as of now are Gran Canaria and Lanzarote, it is stated that “mass events or acts will not be authorized, which is understood to be those of more than 10 people."

Also in hotels, restaurants and establishments with outdoor terraces, as well as in beach bars and restaurants the closing time is established is at midnight (latest), and to admit new customers after 11pm is illegal.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Great panoramic shot of Valle Gran Rey

Above image of Valle Gran Rey was taken by Andy McLeod, who is an award winning director of photography and underwater cameraman based in Tenerife and he also regularly works across the globe. This wide-angle image of La Gomera's south-western corner taken from the air is breathtakingly beautiful.