Emergency declared as wildfires trap 2,000 in Portugal

MACAO (Portugal) • Forest fires have cut off a village of 2,000 people in Portugal, as firefighters struggled to control two major blazes in the centre of the country, local officials said.

And with another wave of hot weather forecast, the government on Thursday declared a state of emergency in some central and northern regions.

Summer has seen a record number of fires, and Portugal's Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa has blamed arsonists and human negligence for most of them.

Mr Vasco Estrela, Mayor of the embattled village of Macao, told the Lusa news agency: "It's impossible to leave or to enter Macao because of the flames and the smoke."

The fire, which broke out on Tuesday evening, grew stronger on Wednesday and by early Thursday had surrounded the village, he said, adding: "The fire is continuing unabated."

Already, at the end of last month, a major fire had destroyed between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of the village, he said.

The emergency services have had to remove around 130 people from nearby villages, said Ms Patricia Gaspar, spokesman for Portugal's civil protection agency, the ANPC.

The authorities added that the fires have left 92 people injured, seven seriously.

The main road in the region was again cut off on Thursday. Fires also disrupted traffic on the highway that connects the capital Lisbon to Porto in the north.

But firefighters were most worried about the fires around Macao, which were continuing to advance on several fronts, Ms Gaspar added.

This year's fires are the deadliest the country has endured. Blazes in mid-June near Pedrogao Grande in central Portugal killed 64 people and injured more than 250 others.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2017, with the headline 'Emergency declared as wildfires trap 2,000 in Portugal'. Print Edition | Subscribe