Amidst all the horror stories that have surfaced following the devastating fires in central Portugal comes the uplifting news that a British couple helped save the lives of at least 15 people who were driving on the IC8 road near Graça, Pedrógão Grande on Saturday, June 17 when the fire reached the village, “destroying everything in its path”.
“We helped people run from the IC8. Our house is near the road. The cars all went up in flames and our duty was to save what we could,” Ben Thoabuan, owner of a small rural tourism business, told Lusa news agency.
He explained that 15 to 20 people waited in the couple’s home around two or three hours for the flames to pass.
“We were all terrified,” he said. But the couple refuses to be labelled heroes.
“We were the right people at the right time. The firefighters were the true heroes,” Thoabuan said.
He said that the local community in Pedrógão Grande does not discriminate between locals and foreigners, and that “everyone sticks together in these small communities”.
Blame game continues over rescue network failures
Meantime, an investigation is underway to determine whether Portugal’s emergency services network (SIRESP) did in fact fail forest fire victims.
Civil protection authorities guarantee that the system failed to work during large periods of the devastating Pedrógão Grande fire, while the private company that manages the system has denied the claims saying that it was “up to the task”.
The state has ordered inquiries to get to the bottom of the issue, at a time when Portugal is only just starting to deal with the aftermath of what was one of if not the worst wildfire in its history, with 64 dead and hundreds injured.
Photo: Portugal is only just starting to deal with the aftermath of the fires that raged through Central Portugal and killed 64 people
Photo by: EPA/MIGUEL A. LOPES