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Firefighters battle wild blazes in Portugal

Firefighters battled wildfires on Friday in Portugal where they have claimed five lives and tamed another major blaze in northern Spain, officials said.

In Portugal, some 1,400 firefighters backed by Spanish and French aircraft were battling a series of fires that have ravaged thousands of hectares of forest in the north and centre of the country.

Locals helped fight Portugal’s main fire in the central Caramulo mountain range, tipping buckets of water or beating it with branches. Others stood by amazed, holding rags over their mouths to shield them from the smoke.

“I’ve never seen such a fierce fire. Everything is covered in soot. It is going to be difficult to continue living here,” said Maria Sousa, 66, a local resident.

Wildfires have claimed the lives of five firefighters in Portugal this month, officials say.

In Spain, firefighters brought under control a fire that had raged for four days and ravaged 1,850 hectares (4,571 acres) near Oia, a village on the Atlantic coast, the Galicia region government said in a statement.

Two smaller wildfires were still raging in two other parts of the region and had burnt a few hundred hectares between them, it said.

Spain and Portugal are highly prone to forest fires in summer because of soaring temperatures, strong winds and dry vegetation.

After a wetter winter than usual, however, there have been far fewer wildfires in Spain this year than last, according to government figures.

Officials in Portugal warned that weather conditions threatened to complicate the firefighting effort until Tuesday, with high temperatures and low humidity forecast.