EU disaster support centre ready for action

Risks of forest fires in countries such as Portugalare being monitored by the new Emergency Response Centre (ERC) of the European Union, which is in regular contact with the member states that are the most likely to need support.

The President of the European Commission (EC), Durão Barroso, inaugurated the new centre last May in Brussels, which aims to improve its service to allow for a better coordinated, faster and more efficient response to natural and man-made disasters in Europe and worldwide.

Working around the clock, the centre will monitor and analyse humanitarian and civil protection issues around the globe and will enable immediate response when needed.

According to a statement released recently by the EC, the ERC organises weekly videoconferences with the countries that face higher risk of forest fires and may not have the adequate means to fight them. The EC believes the countries that are most likely to be affected are Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Croatia.

Therefore, the ERC has substituted its predecessor, the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC), as an operative centre of resource coordination serving the many State-Members, whichlast summer was activated 18 times to aid the fight against forest fires inside and outside the EU. Nine support requests were made to the centre, with Portugal and six other countries calling for air support.

The most dangerous season for possible forest fires comes at the beginning of July in Portugal. The country will have some new resources at its disposal this year such as 10 new reinforcement groups (GRUATA) to deal with both outbreaks and prevention.