Huge wild­fires rage in Por­tu­gal and Cor­sica

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Scorch­ing tem­per­a­tures and high winds were cul­mi­nat­ing in huge wild­fires in Por­tu­gal and on the French is­land of Cor­sica yes­ter­day, with hun­dreds of hol­i­day­mak­ers forced to flee and fur­ther blazes pre­dicted. Al­most 1,000 peo­ple had to leave Cor­sica dur­ing the night, with 2,000 hectares of scrub­land de­stroyed, though no hu­man ca­su­al­ties were re­ported. Dry con­di­tions have fu­elled fires in re­cent weeks.

A man sus­pected of start­ing five fires in Bas­tia, a town with a pop­u­la­tion of 40,000 in the is­land’s north­east, was ar­rested late Fri­day, an of­fi­cial said. At Cap Corse, the most northerly point where the fire had spread overnight into Fri­day, the sit­u­a­tion has been sta­bi­lized but the blaze re­mains ram­pant in the Sisco com­mune. “It’s hell,” Chris­tian Burchi, a 50-year-old Sisco res­i­dent said late Fri­day. “We tried to ex­tin­guish the flames with two buck­ets of wa­ter and a ridicu­lous hose. Ev­ery­where is burn­ing.”

In Por­tu­gal for­est fires con­tin­ued to rage as high tem­per­a­tures and swirling winds posed dif­fi­cul­ties for fire­fight­ers across the country with fur­ther blazes pre­dicted. Two of the worst fires were near the towns of Abrantes and Al­va­iazere, where the fire­fight­ing ef­fort in­volved 800 per­son­nel, four wa­ter-bomb­ing planes, two he­li­copters and around 250 ve­hi­cles.

Some 1,800 fire­fight­ers were try­ing to douse around 10 fires across the country, au­thor­i­ties said. Civil pro­tec­tion agency spokes­woman Pa­tri­cia Gas­par said a record 220 fires had started on Fri­day alone. “De­spite the relentless fires, the sit­u­a­tion is now more sta­ble,” said Gas­par in Lis­bon. Emer­gency work­ers had nearly gained con­trol of wild­fires across Por­tu­gal’s droughthit cen­tral re­gion on Thurs­day, but stronger winds fanned flames in sev­eral ar­eas.

In the vil­lage of Bra­cal, flames were be­ing blown to­wards houses as res­i­dents grabbed what they could to aid fire­fight­ers, an AFP jour­nal­ist said. Some res­i­dents voiced anger at au­thor­i­ties af­ter a sea­son of re­peated wild­fires which have stretched re­sources. “Fire­fight­ers can’t per­form mir­a­cles, they are ex­hausted,” said Lucia Ri­cardo, who lives in Bra­cal, close to Abrantes.

Six vil­lages had been evac­u­ated around Abrantes on Thurs­day as fire­dous­ing planes flew sor­ties over the flames. An­other blaze near Gran­dola, in the south­ern Se­tubal dis­trict, needed 200 fire­fight­ers to bring it un­der con­trol af­ter burn­ing through around 3,000 hectares of for­est. The fires come af­ter more than 60 peo­ple were killed in June, and more than 200 in­jured, in a gi­ant blaze at Pe­dro­gao Grande in cen­tral Por­tu­gal that raged for five days. Af­ter an un­com­monly dry win­ter and spring, al­most 79 per­cent of the Por­tuguese main­land was en­dur­ing ex­treme or se­vere drought at the end of July, ac­cord­ing to the na­tional weather of­fice. —AFP

COR­SICA: A fire fighter Canadair drops wa­ter on a hill above Sisco, on the French Mediter­ranean is­land of Cor­sica yes­ter­day af­ter a night of for­est fires. —AFP

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