1,800 firefighters battle wildfires in central Portugal

22 Juillet, 2019, 04:54 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Members of the emergency services try to extinguish the fire in Vila de Rei Portugal

Planes and helicopters joined almost 2,000 firefighters in central Portugal Sunday to battle huge wildfires in a mountainous region where more than 100 people died in huge blazes in 2017.

One seriously injured civilian was evacuated by helicopter to Lisbon, the commander of the civil protection authority for the region, Luis Belo Costa, told a news conference.

Portugal's Civil Protection said some houses were hit by the flames but did not give a specific number.

By 9:30 am (0830 GMT), one of the biggest mobilisations ever seen in the area - including 1,100 firefighters and 340 vehicles - had been deployed to fight the blazes in the heavily forested Castelo Branco region, 200 kilometres (120 miles) north of Lisbon, the rescue services said.

Officials say two of the fires had been brought under control on Sunday and one village has reportedly been evacuated, according to the BBC.

Thirteen airplanes and 243 firefighting vehicles on the ground are battling the blazes, along with 20 soldiers and four bulldozers.

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The commander of the Civil Protection for the region, Luis Belo Costa, said that "given the hard terrain, we have not succeeded in getting the fire in Vila de Rei under control, but have only contained about 60% of it, despite a lull in the wind".

"Given the hard terrain, we have not succeeded in getting the fire in Vila de Rei under control, but have only contained about 60 percent of it, despite a lull in the wind", Belo Costa said.

In the municipality of Macao, temperatures reached 34 degrees Celsius (93.2°F) on Sunday and are expected to increase to 37 degrees Celsius (98.6°F) on Monday. One is in a serious condition and remains hospitalized with first- and second-degree burns.

In a statement released Sunday afternoon, police said a 55-year-old man was detained on suspicion of starting a blaze in the Portuguese district of Castelo Branco, where the wildfires started on Saturday before spreading to nearby Santarem.

In recent years, the country has witnessed some of its deadliest fires on record, with 106 people killed in 2017. Those precautions helped eliminate any wildfire deaths in 2018, although they continue to be a problem in the region due to its warm, forest terrain, dry summer months and strong winds from the Atlantic Ocean.

Six regions in central and southern Portugal have been placed on maximum fire alert.

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