Portugal and Spain probe 'intentional' fires

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Portugal and Spain probe 'intentional' fires

Portugal and Spain probe 'intentional' fires
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The amount of forest destroyed by wildfires in Portugal could be far greater than previously thought. Latest satellite estimates suggest that more than 50,000 hectares of forest burned in the first 12 days of August.

The Portuguese interior minister has said that more than 90 per cent of the fires are started by people.

Three shepherds have been arrested in the north, suspected of lighting fires to renew their pasture land.

The authorities are particularly concerned about the raging flames in two natural parks.

The mayor of Gouveia, Álvaro Amaro, whose town in central Portugal is badly affected, said he believed the country had learned nothing in terms of prevention.

In Spain an inquiry is underway following the deaths of two firefighters in the northwestern Galicia region.

The two men, one 27, the other 35, were overcome by the flames late on Thursday night.

The authorities believe the fire that killed them was of criminal origin. Over the previous four days four other fires had been started in the same place.

“The circumstances were strange, because the firefighters were planning how to attack the fire,” said Samuel Juarez, head of rural affairs in Galicia.

“Apparently, all the indications are that for some reason they became separated from the rest of group, but we don’t know anything else,” he said.

Emergency workers are battling to contain wildfires in other parts of Spain as well. Seven people were detained over a two-day period suspected of arson.