A four-day-old wildfire in southern Portugal is being fought by hundreds of firefighters. It has scorched thousands of hectares and forced the evacuation of nearly 1,400 residents.
The wildfire began on Saturday in the Alentejo municipality of Odemira, but it has since moved south toward the Algarve, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal.
The firemen and six water-dropping planes have struggled to put out the fires that have scorched almost 7,000 hectares (17,297 acres), including vast swaths of highly flammable pine and eucalyptus trees.
The emergency and civil protection authority’s (ANPC) regional chief, Jose Ribeiro, said that the weather will likely continue to be difficult.
On Monday, just before dusk, a massive smoke cloud filled the sky, turning Odemira’s sky dark. The Odemira fire had consumed around 7,000 hectares (17,297 acres) by Tuesday afternoon, or the equivalent of 10,000 football fields.
Officials reported that a total of 55 persons, mostly emergency professionals, were hurt recently. The situation was described as “critical, difficult, and complex” by the mayor of Odemira, Helder Guerreiro, while Ribeiro noted that although the perimeter of the fire had been confined for the time being, more work remained to put it under control.
Bulldozers are being utilized to create fire breaks and stop the fire from spreading further, according to Andre Fernandes, national commander of ANPC. The thermal springs and hotels in Monchique, which experienced its most recent fire in 2018, are well-liked by both locals and visitors.
Twenty towns, including one in Monchique, four hotels, and a campground have all been evacuated as a precaution. Additionally, several roads have been closed. Several wildfires are presently raging around Portugal, but Fernandes said Odemira is the most concerning.
Authorities have issued health warnings as a result of the majority of southern European nations this year dealing with record-breaking temperatures during the busiest travel season. According to scientists, climate change is causing heatwaves to occur more frequently, more intensely, and more widely throughout the year.
On Tuesday, three areas in northern Portugal were put on red alert. In the northern city of Castelo Branco, temperatures were forecast to reach 41C (105.8F). According to authorities, there is a high risk of wildfires in more than 120 Portuguese towns, including those in Lisbon, the Alentejo, and the Algarve.
According to Patricia Gaspar, secretary of state for civil protection, “the weather conditions we are going to experience in the coming days means any small occurrence [fire] could become a big one.”