Home Wildfire News Spain – Portuguese soldiers join wildfire battle

Spain – Portuguese soldiers join wildfire battle

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More than 3,400 firefighters and soldiers have battled two dozen wildfires for a second straight day in Portugal, while a government official said he foresaw “great difficulties” in the days ahead.

At least 15 people were reported injured, including one man who was severely burned and five firefighters who were hospitalised. Dozens of people were evacuated from their homes.

Portugal is enduring its worst drought on record and woodland is tinder-dry. Fire officials have placed most of the country on maximum alert.

Temperatures in some areas were forecast to continue above 40 degrees Celsius through the weekend.

Emergency services were stretched to capacity and the government urged businesses to release volunteer firefighters. “We’re going to be up against great difficulties over the coming days,” Internal Administration Minister Antonio Costa told reporters.

Costa said the fires were on a “gigantic scale” and posed an “extremely serious” problem for the emergency services.

A man trapped by flames near Ourem, 120km north of Lisbon, was taken to a hospital with burns on 80 per cent of his body, the national news agency Lusa reported. Several others were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

Most of the fires were in dense forests of pine and eucalyptus in northern and central areas of Portugal, the Civil Protection Service said.

Huge smoke clouds prevented planes and helicopters from going up to drop water over the fires in some areas, although more than 800 land vehicles were deployed, authorities said.

Many firefighting crews did not rest much during the night as they evacuated remote villages threatened by the flames.

The fires also affected public transportation and roadways, with hours of delays reported.

The wildfires have charred more than 68,000 hectares of woodland this year, more than half of it last month, according to the General-Directorate for Forests.

In neighbouring Spain, firefighters managed to bring blazes in the central Toledo and northern Pamplona areas under control early in the day but another major fire continued in the northwestern Bierzo area.

Spain is experiencing its driest summer since record-keeping began in the 1940s and has seen more than 50,000 hectares of woodland ruined by about 5,000 forest fires so far this year.

Last month, a blaze apparently sparked by a barbecue fire killed 11 firefighters and destroyed more than 11,000 hectares of woodland in a nature reserve east of Madrid.

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