The alert for the rural fire was given at 01:05 in the early hours of yesterday (Monday 16th August) and was considered to be under control by 10:20, however the “severe weather picture”, with high temperatures and wind, caused a “very strong reactivation” in the middle of the critical period of the day, close to the head/right flank of the original fire, and this quickly became “out of extinguishing capacity”, explained the regional operational commander of Faro, Richard Marques.
On Monday night, the fire had already entered the municipalities of Tavira and Vila Real de Santo António, causing the A22 motorway, between the junctions of Castro Marim and Altura is to close in both directions, with the EN125 being an alternative. According to the GNR, the authorities are were making “all efforts to reopen the highway”, but it was not foreseeable within next few hours.
The GNR have asked “that travel be avoided” on the EN125, between Vila Real de Santo António and Tavira, due to the fire in the area, taking into account that the A22 remains closed in both directions. “Traffic is very restricted in the area. In itself, it is more intense at this time of summer, now it moves very slowly between Vila Real de Santo António and Tavira”, stressed the representative of the Territorial Command of Faro.
Around 50 people were evacuated from their homes, most of them voluntarily, in the last 24 hours, with houses and various crops being hit. However, speaking earlier this morning the Mayor of Castro Marim, Francisco Marim, said “with things improving, people are already returning to their homes”.
According to the Mayor, the populations most affected by the fire were those in Cortelha, Pego dos Negros, Fontainhas and Monte da Amendoeira. However, the situation is “more controlled now, with the fire currently more towards Tavira”.
“I saw desperate families who lost all their possessions, people dedicated to agriculture, with plantations of carob, almond and pine trees, dedicated to bee keeping, and from one moment to another they saw their incomes reduced to zero. Thousands of hectares were burned, we still have no idea of ??the totality of the damage”, he stressed.
According to Francisco Amaral, a resident of the village of Pisa Barro, where the firefighters were unable to reach, the residents themselves fought “with enormous vigour”, being the “heroes who fought the fire, defending their homes”, from the youngest to the oldest.
Also in the neighbouring municipality of Tavira, 26 people had to be removed from their homes by the GNR, due to the proximity of the fire to their homes.
According to Ana Paula Martins, Mayor of Tavira, the weather conditions “have not helped the firefighters in their mission” – during the night, the “strong and unstable wind complicated the task. I know that we have a complicated active front that is being fed by air, it already had complications at dawn, in Malhada de Peres. I think the situation is being tackled in every way possible”, she said, at 10:30.
At 11:45 this morning there were 617 Personnel, 208 Appliances and 5 Air Support in attendance.
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Original article available in Portuguese at http://postal.pt/