Wildfires rage across Portugal
ABRANTES: More than 2,600 firefighters battled 62 wildfires raging across Portugal on Thursday, officials said, as the return of scorching heat put an end to the respite after a spate of blazes.
Weather conditions will be “especially favourable for wildfires” until tomorrow, with strong winds and temperatures of up to 39°C forecast, civil protection agency spokesman Patricia Gaspar said.
Morocco sent a water-dropping plane and neighbouring Spain sent two to help firefighters battle the flames, she added.
The fires came after more than 60 people were killed in June, and more than 250 injured, in a giant blaze at Pedrogao Grande in central Portugal that raged for five days.
Eleven fires were still out of control as of 11pm on Thursday, while the rest had been tamed or were being dampened down, the civil protection agency said.
Some 800 firefighters backed by 250 vehicles were at the scene of the biggest blaze in a forest near the central town of Abrantes.
The fire had reached the outskirts of the city, Abrantes Mayor Maria do Ceu Albuquerque said.
“The night is going to be very difficult,” she said.
Officials evacuated four nearby villages because of the threat from the flames and smoke.
“It has burned all day. It started up high and the flames made a complete tour,” Matilde Simao, a resident of evacuated village Pucarica, said.
Firefighters said low air humidity levels and strong winds, which frequently changed direction, were complicating the battle against the blaze.
“There are people setting fires, bad people. It is the only explanation that I can see, there is no other,” said Maria Conceicao, another resident of Pucarica.
Local residents used garden hoses and plastic buckets full of water to help firefighters put out the flames, television images showed.
Police said they had arrested a 61-year-old man who was suspected of having started a fire near the central village of Lordelo.
The president of the Portuguese Firefighters’ League, Jaime Marta Soares, told private television SIC he believed more than 80 per cent of wildfires in Portugal had a “criminal origin”. AFP
A firefighter tackling a wildfire near the village of Pucarica in Abrantes on Thursday.