Country hit by wild fires

Forest fires in Portugal have destroyed a bigger area of land so far this year than in the whole of 2009.

According to data released by the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), at least 92,930 hectares have been destroyed since the beginning of the year, some 6,914 hectares more than in the whole of 2009, and more destruction than 2008 and 2007 combined (48,694 hectares).

From August 1 to 18, fires destroyed 73,583 hectares of forest in the country, the third worst monthly total recorded in the last decade.

On Wednesday alone, fire fighters were combating four active fires in the country.

The worst is in Castro Daire, where the fire has been raging since August 13. This has required the mobilisation of 247 fire fighters, 68 vehicles and two Canadair planes.

Meanwhile, a former fire fighter from Santo Tirso Bombeiros was arrested by the PJ Police for starting a fire at Alvaiázere in Leiria.

This year the PJ police have already arrested 29 people on suspicion of starting fires. On Wednesday this week, Portuguese President Cavaco Silva said: “All citizens must be alert and if someone sees anyone starting a fire they are to notify the authorities immediately.

“The country is going through an extremely difficult period but fire fighters have responded with great capacity and efficiency. They are doing extraordinary work to protect citizens and defend property and forests.”