Sunday July 17, 2022
More than 3,000 firefighters battle blazes as EU offers emergency help and temperatures could hit 43C
People throw water and spray hoses on flames near their homes in Canecas, on the outskirts of Lisbon. Photograph: Mário Cruz/EPA
Wildfires in Portugal have left 29 people injured as thousands of firefighters and dozens of aircraft battle the blazes.The country is enduring a heatwave that is due to worsen, with temperatures expected to reach up to 43C (109F) on Tuesday.
Authorities said 12 firefighters and 17 civilians required medical treatment for minor injuries, as reported by the Portuguese state broadcaster RTP and local media.
By Sunday afternoon, Portugal’s civil protection agency said more than 3,000 firefighters were tackling active blazes.
On Sunday, the EU activated its firefighting air fleet assistance programme, which allows member states to share resources to help Portugal.
Spain, which has also endured recent wildfires, mobilised two firefighting planes, according to the European commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarčič.
The Portuguese government said it had deployed 60 aircraft to support fire crews. In 2017, out-of-control wildfires killed more than 100 people.
The EU has warned the continent is facing one of the hardest years for natural disasters including droughts and wildfires as the climate crisis escalates.
In Spain, a fire in the south-west prompted the evacuation of 30 residents as a precaution, while 115 firefighters supported by helicopters and planes were deployed to the blaze near the village of El Ronquillo.
António Costa, Portugal’s prime minister, postponed a planned visit to Mozambique this week “in view of the weather forecasts that indicate a very serious worsening of the risk of rural fires”.
The Portuguese president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, cancelled a trip to New York, where he was scheduled to speak at the UN economic and social council.
Last month, 96% of Portugal was classified as being in “extreme” or “severe” drought.
The Portuguese government has declared a heightened state of alert that will be in place until Friday.
The interior minister, José Luís Carneiro, said: “This means … we can automatically and preventively activate all emergency and civil protection plans at all territorial levels.”
Portugal’s government has barred the public from accessing forests deemed to be at special risk of wildfires, and has banned the use of farm machinery and outlawed fireworks.
Costa, in a message on Twitter, reminded citizens not to light any outdoor fires or use heavy farm machinery that could cause sparks.
He wrote: “Preventing fires is the best help we can give our firefighters.”