Tenerife’s Worst Disasters

Wed, July 23rd, 2014 - By Andrea Montgomery

The Canary Islands are actually a remarkably safe place to live and due to their beautiful climate, throughout the centuries, millions of people have come here for the benefit of their health. Blissfully free from typhoons, tornadoes and hurricanes, although Atlantic storms are semi-regular visitors, the islands don’t usually suffer too many ill effects from meteorological conditions. But that’s not to say they haven’t witnessed some terrible disasters in their time. These are amongst the worst.


Los Rodeos Airport, scene of world's worst ever commercial air disaster


The Los Rodeos Air Disaster 1977
March 27th 1977 is a date carved into the annals of air disasters when two Jumbo Jets collided on the runway of Los Rodeos airport in La Laguna killing 583 passengers and crew. Neither aircraft should even have been at the airport but a bomb explosion and threat of a second bomb at Gran Canaria airport diverted them to Tenerife. A  whole lot of bad luck then conspired to lead to the crash. The airport was engulfed in fog; the runway lights were not working; the KLM pilot did not hear the control tower command not to take off because the Pan Am flight was coming in to land. At the last minute both pilots tried to avert the disaster but it was too late. It remains the world’s worst commercial airline disaster.




Eruption of Montaña Negra 1706
On the morning of 5th May 1706, at 3.00 am, thunder bellowed across Tenerife’s northern sky and a blood red horizon spewed grey smoke splintered with orange embers. By the time dawn broke over the Italian style mansions that lined the streets of Garachico, the town’s citizens had just twelve hours to flee. By nightfall the town was engulfed in lava from an eruption of Montaña Negro and over the next nine days, 384 neighbourhoods were lost and the port destroyed. Mercifully, no lives were lost but Garachico’s fabled wealth was gone forever.


Storm damage, Tenerife


Tropical Storm Delta 2005
On November 28th 2005 a slow moving, sub-tropical storm which had formed over the Azores gathered strength and hit the Canary Islands, ripping through Tenerife with wind gusts recorded up to 90mph and through Gran Canaria with gusts up to 95mph. Along Tenerife’s east coast around Guimar, electricity pylons were blown down which left over 250,000 residents without electricity, some of them for several weeks. It’s estimated that the storm caused in the region of €108 million in agricultural and structural damage on Tenerife alone and 19 people lost their lives, 18 at sea and one on Fuerteventura when a man was blown off his roof.


Forest fires on Tenerife


Forest Fires of 2007
Summer wildfires are an unfortunate aspect of life here on the islands and every year there are countless fires. Thankfully, most of them are put out with relatively little damage but in July 2007 fires raged on Tenerife forcing thousands to evacuate their homes and destroying thousands of acres of woodland and a large section of Masca. Simultaneously, much of the municipality of Tunte on neighbouring Gran Canaria burned. While livestock and crops were lost, there were no human fatalities. After a winter drought and summer heatwave, fires again raged across the islands in 2012 and La Gomera suffered the loss of 10% of its Garajonay World Heritage site.

Posted : Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 at 5:04 pm
Category : about tenerife
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