Government declares State of Public Calamity over Portugal’s ever-increasing risk of wildfires

With a new spike in summer temperatures on the way, and fires raging through the north and centre of the country, the government this morning declared a State of Public Calamity.

The idea is to enforce preventive measures in key fire-risk areas: not simply the fire-battered north and centre, but “some boroughs in the district of Beja” and even the “sotavento (eastern) Algarve”.

As hundreds of exhausted firefighters continue to battle a veritable fire-monster in Mação , the worry is that much worse could be on the way.

A joint statement released by prime minister António Costa and his minister for interior administration Constança Urbano de Sousa this morning read: “In the face of worsening previsions in the next few days, particularly over the weekend, of very elevated and maximum risk of fire, with special incidence in interior districts in the regions of the centre, and north, as well as in some boroughs of Beja and the sotavento Algarve, the government, on the orders of the prime minister and minister of interior administration is declaring a state of public calamity with preventative effects in those areas of national territory”.

These preventative include “establishing specific directives relating to the operational activity of Civil Protection personnel and institutions and entities involved in operations of help and protection”.

Measures could include “the mobilisation of civilians” and the “fixation (ie ordering to stay in one place) “for reasons of their own security or due to operations, limitations or traffic situations” of people and/ or vehicles.

Explains Público, the move basically opens the way forwards for military involvement in securing the country, and allows for the “automatic activation of Civil Protection emergency plans in respect of national territory”.

Thus on Friday the Chief of the Armed Forces, the head of the GNR, the national commander of emergency operations and the president of the firefighters’ league will all be meeting with the prime minister at his official residence in São Bento (Lisbon) to map out “maximum mobilisation of means and manpower, and pre-positioning in areas of greatest risk”.

In the meantime, government leaders will be meeting today (Thursday) with mayors of the various areas deemed most at risk to get a handle on what kind of preventive measures they would like to see.

The problem, concludes the paper, is that the area needing this special preventative focus is “vast”.

As to ‘heat forecasts’ for the next few days, they are intense. From now until Sunday, temperatures are expected to exceed 40ºC in some areas, with many boroughs in the north and centre already ‘nearly there’ today.

Saturday will see thermometers peaking and Sunday should see them pretty much at the same high levels.

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Photo: https://twitter.com/antoniocostapm