Portugal ablaze: “almost a thousand fires in three days”

With almost a thousand raging forest fires in three days, it is all about numbers in Portugal now: 374 fires on Sunday, 308 on Monday, 100 registered since midnight today (Tuesday) (nine still active as we write), 17 boroughs on “maximum alert”, 6,000 firemen working round-the-clock and so many hundreds of hectares burnt black that authorities, for the moment, have lost count.

The only saving grace this far is that no-one has lost their home – though properties have been affected – and no firemen have been killed.

A fire in Murteira, Loures, yesterday nonetheless killed five dogs, and caused injuries for four firemen and three civilians.

And on the Estrada da Beira between Coimbra and Lousã a 43-year-old man was seriously injured when a telegraph pole, burnt by the fires, fell on top of his car.

It is the north that has been most hit so far by wildfires, with families evacuated as flames rapidly approached 150 homes near Mangualde.

As news services stress, at least one in four of these fires are thought to be the results of arson. The figure could be higher.

“This is an attack,” Mangualde fire chief Carlos Carvalho told reporters yesterday as his men who have had almost no rest in seven days battled four separate fires in the area.

Fanned by the gathering wind, roads had to be cut off and mayor João Azevedo went so far as to say the council was “considering a request for Mangualde to be declared a public calamity”.

Vila Nova de Cerveira was another hotspot with scores of locals joining firemen to battle the oncoming blaze.

Fires continue to dominate the news headlines, although for the time being fire chiefs report that the worst seems to have passed.

For now, the boroughs still considered “maximum risk” are: Sabugal, Guarda, Gouveia, Celorico da Beira, Fornos de Algodres, Aguiar da Beira, Trancoso, Sernancelhe, Vila Nova de Paiva, Moimenta da Beira, Pampilhosa da Serra, Gois, Arganil (Coimbra), Mação, Sardoal (Santarém), Vila de Rei and Oleiros (Castelo Branco).

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