Portugal fires contained, situation remains 'serious'

Firefighters battle a forest fire in Cruzinha, Portugal, on July 10, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LISBON (AFP) - Firefighters in Portugal on Monday (July 11) contained two forest fires that ravaged the centre of the country which is under a state of emergency due to an ongoing heatwave.

The blazes left 27 people with minor injuries, while seven houses and two agricultural structures were damaged in recent days, said Andre Fernandes, a civil protection commander.

"There is no significant fire active at this moment (but) the situation is serious," he added at a media briefing.

The most serious fire started last Thursday in the town of Ourem, 130km north of Lisbon.

It tore through around 2,000 ha of vegetation and some 600 firefighters remained in the area after it was contained to prevent it restarting.

A fire that started last Friday in the neighbouring commune of Pombal and destroyed 560 ha was also contained on Monday morning, with 300 firefighters remaining on standby.

Another blaze devastated a swathe of forest near Carrazeda de Ansiaes, in an isolated region of the north-eastern district of Braganza, between Thursday and Saturday.

Since last Thursday Portugal has been hit by high temperatures that are forecast to exceed 45 degrees Celsius in some regions this week.

"In the coming days we will experience conditions of maximum risk," Prime Minister Antonio Costa said.

"The slightest lapse in vigilance could result in a fire of significant proportions." The Portuguese government issued a national "state of contingency" to reinforce the emergency services and beef up emergency powers.

Lisbon has also asked the European Union to activate its civil protection mechanism, and two fire-fighting planes have already been sent to Portugal from Spain.

"Today the country is better prepared" than in 2017, when forest fires left over 100 people dead, said Costa, who cancelled a visit to Mozambique in response to the crisis.

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