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Portugal battles wildfires amid heatwave

#Portugal #battles #wildfires #heatwave

Around 1,5000 firefighters were battling multiple wildfires and multiple bushfires in central and northern Portugal on Sunday after a devastating heatwave, prompting the government to declare a “state of emergency”.

The fires have been burning in several areas since Thursday, destroying at least two homes, as nearly 250 fires were reported to have broken out on Friday and Saturday.

The blazes follow an intense heatwave in Portugal, with temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) this week and expected to rise in the coming days.

Scientists say climate change is linked to more extreme and frequent weather events, including heat waves and wildfires.

The Portuguese government declared a national “state of emergency” as the latest fires raged on Sunday, putting rescue workers on high alert. It is above the state of alert but below the state of disaster and emergency.

The civil protection agency said about 1,500 firefighters were battling the blazes in the municipalities of Ourem, Pombal and Carrazeda de Ansiaes.

In the hamlet of Travessa de Almogadel in central Portugal, pensioner Donzilia Marques was relieved to find her home undamaged when she returned on Sunday after being evacuated the night before.

“The fire came 50 meters from the last house in the village…everything was burning up there,” the 76-year-old told AFP, pointing to the hills between his home and the city of Freixianda.

More than 700 soldiers were deployed to the area on Sunday after the fires destroyed some 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of vegetation, the Civil Protection Agency estimated.

The fires injured a dozen firefighters and about 20 civilians, but most were treated at the scene for respiratory problems or exhaustion.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa canceled a planned trip to Mozambique to follow the fires in his homeland.

The government has asked the European Union to activate its joint civil protection mechanism, which will allow Portugal access to two sea bomber planes based in Spain.

“We are facing an almost unprecedented situation in meteorological terms,” ​​said national civil protection commander Andre Fernandes on Saturday.

Portugal has already experienced extreme weather this year, with an extreme drought affecting around 28 percent of the country’s territory in June, compared to just 1 percent in May.

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