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Heatwave plunges Portugal back into the jaws of fire

Raging temperatures throughout the country have sparked a new wave of major forest fires, with six ‘significant outbreaks’ being tackled by hundreds of firefighters on Tuesday afternoon.

Arcos de Valdevez in Parque Gerês (up close to the border with Spain), areas of Braga and Vila Real (Cabeceiras do Basto, Boticas, Vila Pouca de Aguiar, Ribeira da Pena) and villages in the countryside around Soure, Coimbra are all under attack as firefighting services are once again stretch to the absolute limit.

According to authorities, animals have already died in Arcos de Valdevez, while people too have been “at risk”.

As we wrote this report, one village had been evacuated as a safety precaution, and others were standing by, waiting to see what the next few hours bring.

High winds are making the struggle even more difficult, while the stultifying heat is also complicating everything.

By grim coincidence, national fire chief José Manuel Moura has been reporting on the situation so far in critical fire period, Phase Charlie, explaining that during nine terrible days in August alone there were over 3,100 fires involving 74,000 operatives.

In August this year, over 107,000 hectares of forestland were burnt, which is more than the average for the last 10 years.

The results of ‘combat’ have been “below expectations”, he said.

There was no inference here that firefighters have been doing anything but an incredible job.

Television stations are producing heart-rending clips of the dramas that have been unfolding since July, as everywhere populations extend thanks to the bravery of men who, in some cases, have been going flat out for weeks.

For realtime updates on the situation, see fogos.pt, which shows all the fires ongoing nationally and how they are developing.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com