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Spain and Portugal join forces in the fight against natural disasters

In partnership with The European Commission
Spain and Portugal join forces in the fight against natural disasters
Copyright euronews
Copyright euronews
By Cristina Giner
Published on
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The two southern European countries can now join forces in case of an emergency thanks to coordinated communication, training and new technical equipment.

Climate change is making natural disasters across the European Union more frequent and intense. In the last five years, wildfires in Spain and Portugal have devastated nearly one million hectares of land.

These two southern European neighbours are now joining forces to combat such catastrophes.

In 2022, a high-intensity and unpredictable wildfire caused by a lightning strike devastated a cross-border area in Salamanca, Spain.

"It brings back bad memories because we went through tough times here. The entire village tried to fight this fire. Now a fire is a catastrophe. They are becoming much more virulent. Now we don’t have enough with the resources from Salamanca, we need resources from abroad," explained resident and local firefighter of El Maíllo, Modesto García Gomara.

This is why the EU has set up projectARIEM+.

Managed from an Emergency Center in Galicia, this Spanish region together with Castilla y León and the North of Portugal have created an emergency plan to prevent and respond to major disasters such as floods, heavy storms, and wildfires. The project aims to benefit some 600.000 people.

"It consists in coordinating, planning, analysing risks, raising public awareness, conducting training and drills for both the population and operational services, and identifying the resources needed to address the risks," explains the general director of the Emergency Services of Galicia, Marcos Araujo.

Emergency units are currently working to revive the wildfire that took place in Monsagro in 2022. A fire drill is set to test joint coordination, where effective communication is crucial.

Teams arriving from abroad need to rapidly integrate with the local units following the cooperation protocol. The ‘single operation command structure’ created under the project coordinates the risk situation and then the region where the disaster occurs leads the operation.

Francisco Bolaños, local chief firemen of the Wildfire Department at the Junta Castilla y León, explains that "drills are important because we practice our working procedures. We check which aspects can be improved. The units that join us in the drill, from outside of our team, get to learn about our working procedures and how we will integrate them in a real case."

ARIEM+ budget amounts to 4 million euros. The EU Policy Cohesion Fund financed 75%, while the rest was funded by the regions of Galicia, Castilla y León and the North of Portugal.

With the new project underway, coordinated communications, training and new technology equipment will now allow Spain and Portugal to join forces when an emergency strikes.

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