German helicopters help fight Portuguese flames

22nd August 2005, Comments 0 comments

22 August 2005, LISBON - The central Portuguese city of Coimbra, home to the country's oldest university, was engulfed in smoke and surrounded by flame Monday as wildfires blazing on a wide front in the surrounding forests threatened built-up areas.

22 August 2005

LISBON - The central Portuguese city of Coimbra, home to the country's oldest university, was engulfed in smoke and surrounded by flame Monday as wildfires blazing on a wide front in the surrounding forests threatened built-up areas.

The scenario was repeated across the north and centre of the country where 3,000 firefighters, soldiers and volunteers struggled to contain at least 30 wildfires.

Ten houses and a number of cars were burned in the Coimbra suburb of Ceira, where alarms were sounded and houses were evacuated as the flames reached the city's outskirts.

Also evacuated were 50 mostly elderly inmates of a psychiatric hospital, authorities said. There were no reports of injuries in the blaze.

Coimbra is famous for its university which dates from the 13th century.

Wildfires were also burning in woods outside the Portuguese capital Lisbon as well as in the northern city of Viana do Castelo, where thick smoke forced the cancellation of an annual festival and the evacuation of a luxury hotel.

Reinforcements from aboard were drafted in Monday to help tackle the fires.

Two Canadair water tank planes from France and one from Spain joined efforts to douse the fires and three helicopters from Germany and one from Italy were also expected to arrive later in the day.

Interior Minister Antonio Costa rejected criticism from firefighters that the foreign aid had come too late.

Unofficial estimates say that up to 200,000 hectares of Portuguese brush- and woodland may have been destroyed by wildfires this year alone.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Spain more than 20 wildfires were still burning in the northwest Galicia region.

DPA

Subject: German news

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