“All clear” – after 48 infernal hours, Portugal’s monster fires are under control

Tuesday morning, 5am: Civil Protection has sounded the all-clear after 48 infernal hours in which the centre and north of the country battled over 700 wildfires.

Right now, website confirms there are no fires in evolution.

Attacks mounted by over 3000 firefighters backed by forestry sappers, the Armed Forces, local populations wielding hoses, farming implements, carrying buckets, have finally won.

Plunging temperatures have helped.

But the scenes of devastation in the wake of these terrible fires promise to haunt our collective conscience for weeks as now it is time to help ravaged communities, many of which never had very much to start with.

Today, survivors are recalling the nightmare for avid media crews on the ground. Relatives will be trying to get back in contact with loved ones who were uncontactable as telecommunications networks failed.

Final death toll this time round remains at 36, with countless animals – wild, farm and domestic – having lost their lives.

Dozens of houses have been destroyed, crops wiped out, thousands of hectares of forest lie steaming, blackened and eerily quiet.

With political parties intent on throwing insults at each other, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is said to be preparing a declaration as he sets out to visit devastated communities.

Prime minister António Costa said last night: “After this year, nothing can remain as it was before”. Reports commissioned after the summer’s worst fire tragedy at Pedrógão Grande, where 65 people died, have to be taken on board and Portugal’s approach to forestry management as well as wildfire prevention has to change.

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Image: The face of Civil Protection, in charge of regular fire briefings this summer, Patrícia Gaspar