Portugal on alert and still ravaged by flames

Portugal on high alert and still ravaged by flames


LISBON | Portugal, hit by a third heat wave since early July, was battling several fires on Monday as the country was placed on high alert until Tuesday due to the risk of wildfires. 

On Monday afternoon, nearly 2,000 firefighters were mobilized to put out the flames across the territory, according to civil protection data. 

The largest blaze was raging in the region of Vila Real, in the far north, and had been progressing since the day before inside a mountainous area difficult to access.

“According to provisional estimates, this fire burned 4,500 hectares”, declared the national commander of civil protection André Fernandes, during a situation update at midday.

To fight this forest fire, Portugal could count from Monday on the support of two Greek Canadairs sent as part of the European solidarity mechanism.

The state of alert, decreed by the government Sunday, in particular restricts access to forests, prohibits pyrotechnic shows and plans to strengthen the level of relief mobilization. 

During the days of Monday and Tuesday, the Portuguese Meteorological Institute (IPMA) has forecast temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius in the interior regions of the country.

Portugal, which is suffering this year from a exceptional drought, experienced the hottest July in almost a century.

Since January, more than 94,000 hectares have gone up in smoke in the country, the largest area since the deadly fires in 2017 which killed around 100 people, according to the latest report from the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF).

Alone, the forest fire in the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, a mountainous region in central Portugal classified by UNESCO, consumed more than 25,000 hectares of vegetation in eleven days, before being declared under control on Wednesday . 

Faced with the magnitude of this blaze, the government has decided to soon declare a “state of natural disaster”, which will allow rapid aid to be released, the press told the press. Minister of the Presidency Marina Vieira da Silva, following a meeting on Monday with the mayors of the affected municipalities.

“Over the next 15 days, state services and municipalities will carry out a survey of the damage and damage caused by this fire”, specified the Minister before adding that a “revitalization plan” for this natural park will be presented in September. 

According to the scientists, the warming of the climate increases the probability of heat waves as well as droughts and, by extension, forest fires.