AFP, published Sunday 10 July 2022 at 20:57
Up to 2,800 firefighters mobilized on Sunday to try to put an end to a series of forest fires that ravaged Portugal, where scorching temperatures prompted the government to step up the mobilization of relief efforts by decreeing a “state of contingency”.
The largest outbreak raged in the Ourém region (center) since Thursday and alone has mobilized nearly 700 firefighters.
“The fire reached 50 meters from the last house in the village (…) Everything was burning up there,” Donzilia Marques told AFP, pointing to the hills between her hamlet of Travessa de Almogadel and the town of Freixianda.
Evacuated from home the night before, this 76-year-old retiree was able to return Sunday morning, relieved to find that no home had been damaged.
The fire, which according to a first estimate would have devastated at least 1,500 hectares of vegetation, however destroyed at least two homes, according to the emergency services, which reported other temporary evacuations of villages threatened by flames.
Another fire that mobilized 450 firefighters raged from Friday a few kilometers away, after having declared itself in the municipality of Pombal, also located at the confluence of the districts of Leiria and Santarém.
The fires in recent days have resulted in some 40 minor injuries among the firefighters and the population, but most of the victims were treated on the spot for symptoms of intoxication or exhaustion, according to a report provided Sunday evening by the national commander. , André Fernandes.
– “Extreme weather peak” –
For the third consecutive day, peacekeepers have had to cope with more than 100 fires across the country, while “the peak of extreme weather conditions” is yet to come, Fernandes said.
The thermometers have already reached 44 degrees Celsius in some places and the Portuguese Meteorological Institute predicts that temperatures will continue to rise until the middle of next week.
After this “high-risk” weekend, according to Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who canceled a trip to Mozambique to monitor the situation as closely as possible, the Portuguese government has thus decided to declare a “state of contingency” between Monday and Friday , increase the level of mobilization of emergency services and the restrictions they may impose.
Lisbon also asked the European Union to activate its common civil protection mechanism, obtaining the dispatch of two hydro bombers stationed in Spain.
While Interior Minister José Luis Carneiro said Portugal was facing the “worst combination of factors” from the fires in June and October 2017, which killed more than 100 people, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said that the level of preparedness for emergencies “was not comparable”.
Fires that are multiplying around the world are associated with various phenomena predicted by scientists due to global warming. Rising temperatures, multiplying heat waves and decreasing rainfall in places are an ideal combination for developing fires.
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