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State of Calamity declared in fire-ravaged Serra da Estrela

Over 28,000 hectares destroyed in Serra da Estrela by wildfires since July

Portugal’s government approved on Thursday the declaration of a State of Calamity for a year in the fire-ravaged Serra da Estrela Natural Park (PNSE), as requested by the mayors of the affected territories.

At the press conference following the cabinet meeting held in Lisbon on Thursday, the minister of the presidency, Mariana Vieira da Silva, also announced that the survey of damage and losses caused by this fire would be completed within 15 days, in a process that will extend to other municipalities in the country where “more than 4,500 hectares or 10% of its area” have burned in 2022.

On Monday, the government met with the mayors of the municipalities covered by the PNSE – Manteigas, Celorico da Beira, Covilhã, Guarda, Gouveia and Seia – and Belmonte – also present because it was affected by the fires – to assess the damage caused and “establish the necessary support measures”.

At the meeting, the local councillors asked the government to declare a state of emergency for the region, and Mariana Vieira da Silva said, at the end of the meeting, there was a need to revitalise the PNSE, investing in tourism and nature tourism, and diversifying the economic activities of the region, which include beekeeping, handicrafts and the production of mountain cheese.

The Institute of Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF) considered the largest fire in Serra da Estrela to be the most extensive yet recorded since that of Pedrógão Grande in 2017.

The fire started on 6 August in Garrocho (Covilhã) and for 11 days swept across in Estrela, extending to the municipalities of Manteigas, Gouveia, Guarda, Celorico da Beira and Belmonte.

In a press release sent to Lusa, ICNF said that the region of Serra da Estrela had been affected by five major rural fires since July, that destroyed a total of 28,112 hectares, of which 22,065 were inside the PNSE, or 25% of its total area.

The declaration of a state of disaster corresponds to the most serious level of response to a disaster or catastrophe foreseen by the Civil Protection Framework Law.

Following the 2017 Pedrógão Grande fires, the government also launched a Revitalisation Programme for the Pinhal Interior region.

Source: Lusa