Wildfire razes pinelands near top Cuba tourist town of Viñales

By Thomson Reuters Apr 24, 2024 | 8:33 AM

HAVANA (Reuters) – A wildfire blazed early on Wednesday outside the picturesque western Cuba valley town of Vinales, state-run media said, threatening a region considered to be among the island’s most important tourist destinations.

Local media said the fire was 90% controlled by early Wednesday but that the blaze, which began Monday afternoon, had yet to be snuffed out completely as strong winds fanned flames in a remote and mountainous region of pine forest.

The 51-square-mile (13,210-hectare) Vinales valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site and among Cuba’s top and best known tourist destinations.

The wildfire had consumed approximately 350 hectares, or about 1.5 square miles, but the area burned was well south of the more populated town of Vinales and the area most frequented by tourists.

Tourists who visit the valley take horseback rides along forested paths, visit caverns set among the abrupt, eye-catching mountains and tour tobacco plantations.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation, state-run media reported.

Officials said a prolonged dry season and the lingering effects of El Nino, a weather pattern that can provoke extreme weather phenomena such as wildfires, tropical cyclones and prolonged droughts, had left the area particularly exposed to disaster.

(Reporting by Nelson Acosta and Dave Sherwood; editing by Jonathan Oatis)