The wave of fires in Portugal already leaves a balance of 813 fires, one deceased and 135 injured | International
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There is no official figure on the area burned in Portugal since the current wave of fires began a week ago. The latest data, surpassed at full speed, calculated that 6,400 hectares had burned. They were figures from Monday the 11th. Since then, several disasters have devastated wide areas from the north to the south of the country. The only updated count, provided this morning by the commander of the National Emergency and Civil Protection Authority, André Macedo Fernández, indicates that since last Thursday, when the dramatic fire activity began, there have been 813 forest fires and 135 injuries. There has also been a fatality in a town in the Aveiro district, who was found charred in a cornfield by firefighters, although it is not entirely clear that the circumstances of his death are related to a forest fire.
The newspaper Public made a calculation that gives an idea of the extreme pressure of the firefighting teams, unable to attend to all emergency situations. This Wednesday there has been a fire every 10 minutes. They often start in distant foci simultaneously. The images of neighbors fighting the flames that threaten their homes with buckets and garden hoses are common, and heartbreaking.
Wednesday’s day, one of the worst due to the wind and temperatures that exceeded 40 degrees in many towns, was dramatic in Palmela, a town of 16,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area of Lisbon and surrounded by areas of great ecological value such as the Parque Natural of the Sierra de la Arrábida. From a focus near the castle at noon, the flames spread rapidly and threatened the urban area. This morning is one of those still active.
Equally alarming was the situation in Faro, in the Algarve, where a fire that started on the university campus quickly spread to threaten luxury housing estates in Quinta do Lago, where residents were evacuated. The firefighters prevented the houses from burning down, although they did end up burning wooded areas, the golf course and some gardens.
Until 9:00 today, Civil Protection listed six fires as important (more than three hours active and with more than fifteen troops on the ground) in the districts of Aveiro, Porto, Leiria (2), Setúbal and Faro. From north to south. What they sometimes manage to control at night, gets out of control again during the day. Highways and roads that reopen at dawn are sometimes closed again in the afternoon. There are no figures on evicted people, but the trickle is constant in the most affected populations.
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After several days with the entire continental territory at extreme risk due to high temperatures, some respite is in sight for today. The Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere (IPMA) announces that the heat will continue although temperatures drop slightly, especially on the coast. In the north and center there could even be some scattered showers and thunderstorms. The danger of fire, however, does not go down and the alert is maintained over most of the territory.
Real weather relief, however, is not expected until next week. During a visit to IPMA, Prime Minister António Costa announced that the contingency situation will last until Sunday. “More than ever we are the ones who must avoid starting a fire due to distraction or carelessness. The answer is not more means, it is more care. If there is care, there are no fires. We need to be aware that fire is not born of spontaneous generation, but by human intervention”, he pointed out.
Portugal has these days with the help of two Italian planes, activated by the European Civil Protection Mechanism. Costa, however, recalled that resources are also limited on a European scale and that the solidarity of other countries is conditioned by their own needs. Although he did not mention Spain, which had provided two aircraft last week, the prime minister implicitly recognized the situation of fire risk that he is experiencing, as well as France. “The others also have problems and need to focus their efforts,” he said.
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