32 hurt as firefighters battle wildfire in Portugal

32 hurt as firefighters battle wildfire in Portugal

More than 1,000 firefighters were battling a major wildfire amid scorching temperatures in Portugal on Monday, where forest blazes wreak destruction every summer.

About 90% of the fire area in the Castelo Branco district, about 125 miles northeast of the capital Lisbon, was brought under control during cooler overnight temperatures, said local Civil Protection Agency commander Pedro Nunes.

But authorities said they expected heat and winds to increase again in the afternoon, so all firefighting assets remained in place.

The wildfire is now in its third day (Sergio Azenha/AP)
The wildfire is now in its third day (Sergio Azenha/AP)

Forests in the region are tinder dry after weeks with little rain.

The Portuguese Civil Protection Agency said 321 vehicles and eight water-dumping aircraft were deployed to tackle the blaze, which has raced through thick woodlands.

Mr Nunes told reporters that the fire, now in its third day, had injured 32 people, one seriously.

Police said they were investigating what caused the fire, amid suspicions it may have been started deliberately.

Temperatures were forecast to reach almost 40C Monday, prolonging a spell of blistering weather that is due to hit northern Europe late this week.

Recent weeks have also seen major wildfires in Spain, Greece and Germany.

A man removes burnt hives during a wildfire near Colos (Sergio Azenha/AP)
A man removes burnt hives during a wildfire near Colos (Sergio Azenha/AP)

EU authorities have warned that wildfires are “a growing menace” across the continent.

In the hamlet of Colos, beekeeper Antonio Pires, 50, said he had lost half of his beehives in the current wildfire.

Mr Pires sells to mainly Portuguese and German clients, but also to Brazil and China.

Large areas of central and northern Portugal are covered in dense, unbroken stretches of forest on hilly terrain. A lot of forest is pine and eucalyptus trees, both of which burn fiercely.

Environmentalists have urged the government to limit the area of eucalyptus, which burns like a torch.

But it is a very valuable crop for Portugal’s important paper pulp industry, which last year posted sales worth £2.4 billion.

- Press Association

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