“Completely out of control”: two of 11 worst blazes assailing Portugal

As night falls, the nation’s firefighters have battled through yet another dreadful day, with two fires particularly raging out of control, consuming homes, forcing yet more community evacuations and being breathlessly covered by reporters on the ground.

With the situation now beamed regularly across the world’s media, the truth is that this year has gone into the record books for the number of people killed by fire (64), the acreage of forestland consumed so far (rising all the time, but already considerably more than last year when it totalled half the area lost in all other EU countries put together) and the number of fires recorded in any one day (268, on Saturday).

Horror stories have made the UK tabloids, under headlines like “terrified grans and small kids flee wall of flame as wildfire blazes across Portugal after devastating Lucifer heatwave” (the Sun), and “Wildfires send residents fleeing from their homes in Portugal as ‘satanic’ heatwave Lucifer causes tumultuous weather across southern Europe” (Daily Mail).

Here, the situation has become so much a part of day-to-day life that the country’s best-read tabloid only managed a small mention on the front page: “Inferno of flames in villages in north and centre leads to evacuation of homes and hotels”, while it chose to lead with an account of a lottery winner who had drowned in a swimming pool.

Inside, yet another double-page spread of agony, stressing that national firefighters are now at their limit, exhausted from so many consecutive days battling seemingly headless monsters.

Early this morning, CM recorded 191 forest fires of which nine were considered most worrying.

This evening, that number is up to 11 with blazes in the boroughs of Macão and Fundão being today’s worst.

Tomorrow the picture will have changed but whether it means the number of fires reduces no-one can tell.

Arson remains high on the list of causes, thus today’s most bizarre news item – widely shared over social media – that forest fires are no longer to be considered “crimes of priority investigation”.

The reason, explains news channels, is that a law passed by the PSD-CDS-PP in 2015 has taken forest fires off the priority list, despite exhortations from the Attorney General not to do so.

According to RTP news, Attorney General Joana Marques Vidal saw forest fires, crimes against the environment and crimes against Nature as requiring priority, but the 2015 vote went the then majority’s way, with PS Socialist abstaining and their allies in the new government voting against.

The only good news in this development is that the 2015 law may come to be updated/ modified before it takes effect, on September 1 this year.

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