Nearly 3,000 firefighters fight fires that devastate the Portuguese forests. Heat and the wind make fighting the flames difficult.
After a two-week lull, a new series of fires devastated the Portuguese forests on Thursday evening, mobilizing some 3,000 firefighters to fight the flames. “We are confronted with fires of great complexity with inconsistent winds and high temperatures,” said a spokesman for civil protection, Patricia Gaspar. In view of a large number of fires declared throughout the country, bilateral arrangements with Spain have been activated, including the dispatch of two Canadairs, and a Moroccan Canadair has also been made available, she added. The most important home was raging near the town of Abrantes (center), in the region of Santarém, and mobilized some 650 firemen supported by a dozen air means.
“The fight against the flames is very difficult with very intense fronts, the situation is far from being under control and villages have already been evacuated,” said the mayor of Abrantes Maria do Céu Albuquerque. The villages of Pucariça, Braçal, Medroa, and Amoreira were evacuated in the afternoon, when several residents tried to help out with simple buckets or water hoses, according to images transmitted by The Portuguese televisions.
The authorities have taken the decision to ban access to the A23 and several national roads in front of a brazier that has already destroyed several second homes belonging to people living abroad or in Lisbon, said Maria do Céu Albuquerque. Thick columns of smoke rose in the sky around Abrantes, covering virtually the entire horizon in front of the worried inhabitants whose villages were surrounded by flames, a journalist from Agence France Presse reported.
39 degrees expected by Sunday
Another outbreak near the municipality of Mealhada (north), in the Aveiro region, resulted in the two-way closure of the A1, Portugal’s main highway from Lisbon to Porto, on a stretch of about ten Of kilometers. The A14 was also cut off the same distance. In Grândola (south), in the region of Setubal, another fire forced the authorities to suspend the railway traffic of the South Line, linking Lisbon and the Algarve tourist region. Other important fires broke out in the Vila Real area (north), where a 61-year-old man suspected of setting fire to the town of Lordelo was arrested, and Castelo Branco (center).
In response to the high temperatures that can reach 39 degrees by Sunday and the strong squalls, all regions of Portugal have been placed on orange alert of the risk of fire, the second highest step. In mid-June, a massive fire in Pedrogao Grande killed 64 people and injured more than 200, devastating Central Portugal for five days before being brought under control. After this tragedy, Portugal adopted a forest reform aimed at eventually reducing the number of eucalyptus species present in its territory, this species is particularly flammable.