Some 21 separate wild fires are now raging out of control across Portugal’s parched forests, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake.
The worst affected regions are in the centre and the north of the country where three villages were evacuated last night. On the ground, 3,000 fire-fighters are doing all they can. But with temperatures set to stay in the 40s over coming days and no end in sight to the country’s worst drought since 1945, it is a colossal battle. And the smoke from blazes is so thick, water-dropping aircraft cannot be deployed. The interior minister, Antonio Costa, is urging the public to remain calm and to do what they can to help. Homeowners in endangered areas have been told to clear the ground within a 50 metre radius of their property. The fires are disrupting traffic – a section of the main motorway linking Lisbon and Porto had to be temporarily closed when the flames got too close. Around 70,000 hectares of countryside have been already been destroyed this year.