Over 600 firefighters were battling two wildfires in the in the district of Santarém (Centre) on Wednesday afternoon (August 24) as the Resident went to press.
The fires were raging in the boroughs of Abrantes and Sardoal since Tuesday afternoon and caused injuries to at least six people, including four firefighters, though no-one was seriously hurt.
Two houses burned down in the small villages of Carvalhal (Abrantes) and São Simão (Sardoal), as its 50 residents were evacuated and forced to spend the night at the municipal fire station.
Sardoal mayor Miguel Borgues said the “village was totally surrounded by flames”.
On Portugal’s civil protection website, these two fires were considered the only “major” fire occurrences in the country at the time. Though firefighters had not yet brought the fires under control, they said that the situation had “improved” and was looking “favourable”.
On the same day, Portugal’s Secretary of State for Internal Administration praised the country’s firefighting efforts, saying “nothing more could have been done” to tackle the fires that consumed several parts of Portugal this summer.
“There were just too many fires at the same time,” Jorge Gomes told journalists in Lisbon.
He added, however, that Portugal does not plan to request further aerial assistance from other countries, as he believes the “worst of the wildfires is over”.
Minister pledges new philosophy for forestry planning
As money is due from Brussels to finance at least 85% of the costs of Portugal’s recent wildfires, agriculture minister Capoulos Santos has declared that “strong measures are needed to prevent future forest fires”.
Finally drawing the correlation between the abundance of eucalyptus plantations and wildfires that spread uncontrollably, the minister has said in future no one will be able to plant new swathes of eucalyptus, without reducing similar plantations in another area.
“We cannot uproot the trees that are already planted,” he said. “But those that are to come can only be planted if they are compensated by an area that is reduced.”
Capoulos Santos was talking in Lisbon as the government announced that farmers and producers who suffered damages in the fires can now candidate for special state aid.
Candidacies remain open until September 15, he said.
Women among Portugal’s 37 ‘arsonists’
PJ police have arrested at least two women among the 37 alleged fire-raisers taken into custody this year.
One is suspected of having caused three fires in Oliveira do Bairro (Aveiro), while the other has been ‘identified’ by the GNR in Mirandela.
Both are understood to be at liberty, awaiting trial.
This is another moot point about the way this country deals with suspected arsonists.
“More than half” are released, pending a court slot. M.B/N.D.
Photo: A house and a car burnt down during the fire that raged on Wednesday in the small village of Carvalhal, Abrantes municipality
Photo: PAULO CUNHA/LUSA