Image of the Day, June 28, 2023 - Credit: European Union, Copernicus Emergency Management Service data
Image of the Day, June 28, 2023 - Credit: European Union, Copernicus Emergency Management Service data

Over 20 boroughs in five mainland districts at maximum risk of wildfires

Alert conditions of drought now present in 60% of Iberian Peninsula

The precarious balance of Portugal’s countryside has been illustrated in an ‘image of the day’ by Europe’s satellite Copernicus Emergency Management Service, showing just how tinderbox dry the country is as it enters the hottest season of the year (see main photo). 

Twenty-one municipalities in the districts of Faro, Santarém, Castelo Branco, Portalegre and Coimbra present a maximum danger of rural fires today, warns meteorological institute, IPMA.

This means populations of Loulé, São Brás de Alportel, Tavira, Castro Marim , Chamusca, Constância, Vila Nova da Barquinha, Abrantes, Tomar, Ferreira do Zêzere, Sardoal, Mação (Santarém), Vila de Rei, Proença-a-Nova, Vila Velha de Ródão, Fundão, Covilhã, Belmonte (Castelo Branco), Gavião, Nisa (Portalegre) and Oliveira do Hospital (Coimbra) have to be doubly careful not to precipitate anything that could cause a fire to start ripping through parched countryside.

IPMA has also classed more than 80 municipalities in Faro, Beja, Santarém, Portalegre, Castelo Branco, Portalegre, Leiria, Coimbra, Viseu, Guarda, Vila Real and Bragança districts as at very high risk of fire, while “several municipalities in all districts of the continent”, except for Viana do Castelo district, are at high risk today.

These alert levels are likely to remain in place until at least Sunday, according to IPMA, with very high temperatures in southern districts guaranteed.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been 3,841 fire incidents affecting 8,758 hectares of rural land.

Because of the weather, the IPMA is keeping the districts of Vila Real, Bragança, Viseu, Guarda, Castelo Branco, Santarém, Portalegre, Setúbal, Evora, Beja and Faro under yellow warning until 6pm today.

Also due to the weather, IPMA has put the south coast of Madeira under an orange warning until 8 pm, with this then changing to yellow until 9 pm on Thursday.

The northern coast of Madeira, the mountainous regions and the island of Porto Santo are also under a yellow warning due to the heat until 9 pm on Thursday.

PM in Pedrógão Grande warns “tragedy like this could happen again”

Finally in Pedrógão Grande, after the controversy of last week, prime minister António Costa spent a day with local people before officially commemorating the new memorial to the 115 people who lost their lives in wildfires in the central region in 2017. He warned that the memorial represents an “alert that the past forever runs the risk of repeating itself”, and that it is the “duty of the State to prevent this risk.

President Marcelo also made it for the ceremony yesterday, flying directly from Italy to accompany the visit by prime minister António Costa and various ministers. Image: Paulo Novais/ Lusa

Portugal is a country “particularly exposed to the risks of climate change” he said – stressing that while the State has to prepare itself to face that risk, there needs to be a “mobilisation of the whole of society” in the same direction.

Yesterday’s arrival of government members to Pedrógão Grande served to help citizens try at last to ‘turn the page’ on the tragedy that blew a massive hole through their lives six years ago. 

Dina Duarte, president of the association of victims of the fire of Pedrógão Grande was almost certainly the trigger behind the eventhaving complained vociferously about the way the stunning memorial was arbitrarily ‘declared open’ earlier this month, without any kind of ceremony.

“Let June 27 2023 be the turning of the page, that our tears can dry to give place to the hope for a better country, a territory where there IS a future; a country where there is memory”, she said in her speech. “Because a country without memory of the past cannot construct a promising future”.

[email protected]