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Portugal: a history of deadly forest fires

Portugal, where over 30 people have died in wildfires since Sunday, has already in the recent past been hit by several deadly forest fires.

The most devastating was that which killed 64 in June:

– 2017 –

On June 17, at the height of a heatwave, a gigantic fire breaks out at Pedrogao Grande in the region of Leiria in central Portugal.

Flames, fanned by violent winds, spread quickly, ravaging over five days some 30,000 hectares of hillsides covered with pine and eucalyptus trees between the villages of Pedrogao Grande, Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera.

With a toll of 64 dead and more than 250 injured the fire is the most deadly in Portugal’s history. Many of the victims died trapped in their cars by the flames trying to escape.

As a result of the carnage Portugal adopts a reform of its forestry policy aimed at reducing in the long term the number of eucalyptus trees — which are particularly flammable — present on mass on its territory.

– 2013 –

In August, a wave of fires in the north and centre of the country, fanned by fierce winds and high temperatures, kills nine, including eight firefighters and reduces tens of thousands of hectares of forest to ashes.

The central Caramulo mountain range, long sought out as a cure for lung and breathing ailments due to its pine and eucalyptus forests, is particularly affected.

A thousand firefighters, backed by French, Spanish and Croatian planes, are mobilised across the territory to fight the numerous fires — of which an average of 250 to 300 break out a day.

Around 60 people suspected of setting the fires are arrested between January and late August.

– 2006 –

On July 9 six firefighters are burned alive as they fight a forest fire at Sao Famalicao da Serra in the centre of the country.

– 2005 –

In late February four firefighters die when fighting a forest fire, near to Mortagua, 200 kilometres (124 miles) to the north-east of Lisbon.

Then, in July and August several waves of particularly violent fires ravage the territory from north to south, leading Lisbon to call for aid from its European partners.

The country, confronted with its worst drought since 1945, over the year loses some 300,000 hectares in fires which kill at least 18 people, including 11 firefighters.

– 2003 –

Between July and September gigantic fires caused by a heatwave ravage central and southern Portugal for weeks, leaving 20 dead.

The summer of 2003 remains the most disastrous in terms of surface destroyed, with nearly 425,000 hectares going up in smoke.