Wednesday 15 August 2018

Hopes Portugal inferno contained are dashed

Firefighters help to put out a forest fire in the village of Monchique, Portugal. Photo: Rafael Marchante/Reuters
Firefighters help to put out a forest fire in the village of Monchique, Portugal. Photo: Rafael Marchante/Reuters

Barry Hatton

A major wildfire raged in southern Portugal for a fifth straight day yesterday - as firefighters questioned the government response.

Strong gusting winds dashed hopes that lower overnight temperatures would allow the blaze, which was 95pc under control on Monday, to be contained.

More than 1,200 firefighters, supported by 19 planes, are involved in the operation. But flames are racing through dry and largely inaccessible woodland.

The fire came within 500 metres of the fire department in Monchique, a town of 2,000 people about 250km south of Lisbon, as officials evacuated scores of houses. Emergency services say 29 people have been hurt in the wildfire.

An unknown number of homes - believed to number in the dozens, according to local reports - in the forested hills have burned down.

The firefighting effort drew criticism, with some claiming poor organisation is thwarting the operation. Monchique was identified as a high risk area months ago.

The National Association of Professional Firemen and the Professional Firemen's Trade Union issued a joint statement saying that the government's recent reorganisation of firefighting capabilities need to be reassessed and rethought.

The organisations asked for a "very urgent" meeting with interior minister Eduardo Cabrita.

Irish Independent

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