LOOK: Four Portuguese towns evacuated as forest fires rage


 
11 August 2017

published by https://www.iol.co.za


Portugal - The fires were at their worst in the municipality of Abrantes, some 130 kilometres north-east of Lisbon. On Thursday, the residents of four villages under immediate threat from the intense blazes were brought to safety.

Some of the mostly elderly residents were in a state of panic, the television news station TVI24 reported. In the village of Aldeia do Mato, an 80-year-old woman's house was completely destroyed by flames.

A highway and a country road were also closed off for several kilometres overnight on Thursday due to the billowing flames, but have since be reopened.

Despite a persistent drought in the region and strong winds, almost all of the fires were brought under control during the night, said Maria do Ceu Albuquerque, mayor of Abrantes, to local TV station RTP.

"There is only one dangerous fire location left, but it will still give us a lot of work," she said.

In many regions, highly flammable eucalyptus trees have been the main cause of the fires. This had also been the case with the severe fires that tore through the Pedrogao Grande municipality in the centre of the country, some 50 kilometres south-east of the city of Coimbra, in June.

In addition to the 64 fatalities caused by the June fires, 20 000 hectares of land were destroyed. According to official data, around 138 000 hectares of forest have been destroyed in Portugal since January.

The country is experiencing its worst year for fires since 2005, when 321 000 hectares were destroyed by forest fires.