The battle continues for firefighters in northern and central Portugal which is being ravaged by forest fires. Most of the country remains on high alert as the blazes spread across the drought-ridden country. Some 2,000 firefighters and soldiers are deployed nationwide, along with hundreds of fire engines and more than two dozen water-dropping planes, including some drafted in from neighbouring Spain.
More than 130,000 hectares have been destroyed so far this year – more than in all of 2004. At least 13 people have been killed, 10 of them firefighters. The situation is not helped by the fact that Portugal is suffering from one of the worst droughts since records began more than 150 years ago. The country’s entire wheat crop has been virtually wiped out, and the lack of water is also affecting the tourism industry in the popular southern Algarve region. Prime minister Jose Socrates has said his country must not be resigned to this annual tragedy and announced the launch of a prevention plan in September, as well as financial aid for the victims.