Portugal plagued by heat wave and forest fires
Up to 2,800 firefighters mobilized on Sunday to try to put an end to a series of forest fires which ravaged Portugal, where scorching temperatures prompted the government to reinforce the mobilization of relief by decreeing the “state of contingency “.
The largest outbreak had been raging since Thursday in the Ourém region (center) and alone mobilized nearly 700 firefighters.
“The fire arrived 50 meters from the last house in the village (…) Up there everything burned,” Donzilia Marques told AFP, pointing to the hills between her hamlet of Travessa de Almogadel and the town of Freixianda.
Evacuated from her home the night before, this 76-year-old retiree was able to return to it on Sunday morning, relieved to discover that no house had been damaged there.
The fire, which would have ravaged at least 1,500 hectares of vegetation according to a first estimate, however destroyed at least two houses, according to the emergency services, which reported other temporary evacuations of villages threatened by the flames.
Another blaze mobilizing 450 firefighters had been raging since Friday a few kilometers away, after having declared itself in the municipality of Pombal, also located at the confluence of the districts of Leiria and Santarém.
The fires of the past few days have caused around forty minor injuries among firefighters and the population, but most of the victims were treated on the spot for symptoms of intoxication or exhaustion, according to a report provided Sunday evening by the National Civil Protection Commander, André Fernandes.
– “Extreme weather peak” –
For the third day in a row, firefighters had to deal with more than a hundred fire starts across the country, while “the peak of extreme weather” is still to come, underlined Mr. Fernandes.
Thermometers have already reached 44 degrees Celsius in places and the Portuguese Meteorological Institute expects temperatures to continue to rise until the middle of next week.
After this “high-risk” weekend, according to Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who canceled a trip to Mozambique to monitor the situation as closely as possible, the Portuguese government has thus decided to declare a “state of contingency” between Monday and Friday, to raise the level of mobilization of the emergency services and the restrictions they can impose.
Lisbon has also asked the European Union to activate its common civil protection mechanism, obtaining the dispatch of two water bomber planes stationed in Spain.
While Interior Minister José Luis Carneiro said Portugal was facing the “worst conjunction of factors” since the fires of June and October 2017, which killed more than a hundred people, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa argued that the level of emergency preparedness was “not comparable”.
The fires that are multiplying across the globe are associated with various phenomena anticipated by scientists due to global warming. The increase in temperature, the multiplication of heat waves and the drop in precipitation in places is an ideal combination for the development of fires.
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