Wild­fires rage across Portugal

New Straits Times - - World -

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

AFP PIC

A fire­fighter tack­ling a wild­fire near the vil­lage of Pu­car­ica in Abrantes on Thurs­day.

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