Ten people in hospital after latest round of forest fires

Panic returned to central Portugal on Monday with fires breaking out from Lisbon to Coimbra.

The worst affected district was Santarém where 10 separate blazes were registered between midday and 3pm, forcing the mobilisation of over 1000 operatives (firefighters, Civil Protection, etc.) and involving as many as 20 firefighting helicopters and planes.

As the day progressed, 10 people had to be treated in hospital – most of them either ‘bombeiro’ firefighters or forestry ‘sappers’.

Three of the injured were transferred to burns units in Lisbon and Porto, while at least two firefighters suffered broken legs.

As tabloid Correio da Manhã remarked, this year “fires continue to take victims and be very large with great capacity for propagation”.

With politicians still at loggerheads over the State’s response to the worst fire in recent history two weeks ago at Pedrógão Grande, CM implies that conditions right now render even the most rapid intervention “insufficient”.

Yesterday, temperatures in Santarém were in the 40ºs, with “some wind”.

“Firemen were confronted with the situation of distributing means and manpower to many fires that broke out”, explained the paper – the largest of which began “within a minute of each other” in the communities of Crucifixo (Abrantes) and Portela (Tomar).

It was in these two fires that the 10 people were injured as locals fought alongside firefighters in a desperate bid to save their homes and agricultural land.

As to the causes of these latest blazes, PJ criminal police said there are “clear indications” of arson, in Santarém particularly. Investigations are ongoing.

Meantime, the government is reported to be “pondering” the creation of a “form of central base for purchases of burnt trees from the fires of Pedrógão Grande and Góis to assure that producers receive the right kind of payment, and that there is no form of speculation or advantage-taking of the difficult situation”.

Planning minister Pedro Marques announced this development as he reported on the damages of last month’s deadly fires that killed 64 men, women and children and destroyed as many as 500 homes.

Marques said the government will be allocating €193 million for “immediate response to urgent situations”, including help for the dozens of businesses that were destroyed.

The minister added that 81% of Pedrógão Grande’s forest land has been “destroyed”, while neighbouring boroughs of Figueiró dos Vinhos and Castanheira da Pera each lost 56% of their forests.

As the country’s acute fire-risk period, Phase Charlie, is only four days into its three month stretch, the one bit of good news on this week’s horizon is that temperatures are set to drop “sharply” on Wednesday, by as much as 8ºC in central Portugal.

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