Wildfires hit central Portugal, 1,000 firefighters mobilized

Photo: Reuters

More than 1,000 firefighters battled three blazes sweeping across central Portugal early on Sunday, prompting authorities to partially evacuate a village and leaving one person with severe injuries.

Strong winds are making it tougher for firefighters to put out the blazes, which started on Saturday afternoon in Castelo Branco, a district 225 kilometers (139 miles) northeast of the capital Lisbon.

One village was partially evacuated as a precaution, Portugal’s Civil Protection said, adding that one person was taken by helicopter to a Lisbon hospital with first and second degree burns. Seven firefighters were also injured.

One wildfire made its way to Macao, a municipality in the nearby district of Santarem, where temperatures are expected to reach 34 degrees Celsius on Sunday.

“The wildfire came with force,” a Macao resident told Portuguese TV channel SIC, complaining there are not enough firefighters on the ground. “We (residents) had to fight the flames.”

Ricardo Aires, the mayor of another affected municipality, Vila de Rei, also told Portugal’s public broadcaster RTP that firefighters and resources were lacking.

Portugal’s armed forces said 20 soldiers were on their way to support the operation, bringing four bulldozers.

The Portuguese president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, said in a statement that he is following the situation closely and sent solidarity to those affected.

Authorities said they hope to bring the wildfires under control by 6 or 7 a.m local time.

In June 2017, a devastating wildfire in the central town of Pedrogao Grande killed 64 people and injured more than 250. The fire was the worst disaster in modern Portuguese history.

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