Hundreds of firefighters battle wildfires in Portugal
Nearly 1,000 firefighters as well as six helicopters and three planes were deployed in Portugal Sunday to battle forest fires raging in the north and centre of the country, authorities said.
The worst fire scorched Vila Nova de Cerveira in the northern Minho region and was continuing to spread due to “difficult to access terrain, wind, high temperatures and the ongoing drought,” a fire service spokesman said, with 250 men battling the blaze.
Portuguese television broadcast images of frightened residents as the flames approached their homes.
Another major fire was raging at Miranda do Corvo, not far from the central city of Coimbra, with homes there also threatened.
Around 100 kilometres (62 miles) to the east at Covilha, two firemen were injured tackling another blaze which forced authorities to evacuate a camp site and a hostel before it was brought under control.
After having escaped relatively unscathed by wildfires last year, Portugal has been hit by major forest fires this summer.
Nearly 80 percent of the country’s territory is considered to be in a severe drought, a situation that is likely to get worse in August, according to the Portuguese meteorological agency IPMA.
Portugal also contributed about 100 firefighters and dozens of vehicles to the battle against a wildfire in Estremadura in western Spain that ravaged nearly 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres), but which was brought under control Sunday.
Some 2,400 residents who were evacuated from their homes were allowed to return, and roads that were closed have reopened, Spanish officials said.
Wildfires have destroyed more than 54,000 hectares of agricultural and forest land in Spain this year, exceeding the area burned over the last two years combined, according to the agriculture ministry.