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Drought hammers Spain, Portugal

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Drought hammers Spain, Portugal
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Large parts of Spain and Portugal are desperate for rain, nearing the end of the driest Iberian winter in more than 70 years. Spain got less than 30 percent of its normal precipitation this winter.

With both countries in the middle of an economic crisis, many people feel it could not come at a worse time. Thousands of jobs and many millions of euros of agricultural output are threatened by this.

Farmers who can are irrigating where rain usually does the job.

Farmer José Manuel Allue said: “If it doesn’t rain in two to three days, and the weather forecast says it won’t, there is no solution for the crops. As there’s very little water, we’ll see what happens with fruit and vegetables. This latest catastrophe means a lot more people are going to be out of work in the farming sector. We have no idea how we are going to be by the end of the year.”

In the Mediano reservoir in Huesca, in the northwest of Spain, stored water used to submerge an abandoned church. At the moment, the front steps are dry. One year ago, on average, the country’s reservoirs were 80 percent full.

Weather expert Ángel Ribera said: “Spain goes through a cycle of drought. What is surprising about this time is how extreme it’s been over the last three months. There hasn’t been a drop of rain in many parts of Spain. There is usually a bit of precipitation at other times.”

Portugal is much the same. The government has just approved 90 million euros to help farmers with livestock, a hard move for a country restricted by austerity demands under emergency bailout plans.

Extreme drought is affecting half the country. Portugal just had the driest February in 80 years. The other half of the territory is in the severe drought category.

Portugal and Spain are preparing for summer wildfires, expecting them to be especially bad.

A scientist in Lisbon earlier this month said there were already hundreds of forest fires on some days now.