Over 700 firefighters are battling a large wildfire in Portugal which has forced around 350 people to evacuate.
The fire broke out overnight in Sunday in Sintra-Cascais Natural Park west of Lisbon.
Seventeen firefighters have been injured trying to fight it, as well as one civilian.
Andre Fernandes of Portugal’s civil protection agency said 300 people were evacuated from a campsite while another 47 were removed from their homes in the wooded area as a precaution.
Firefighters on the ground were being supported by 225 vehicles and six aerial fire-fighting units as they tried to put out the blaze. Planes swooped low to dump water on plumes of smoke rising from densely wooded hills 25 miles west of the capital.
Fernandes said firefighters were combating the fire on two fronts, and their efforts were being helped by a decrease in the winds that had previously fanned the flames.
‘The first hours of the fire were very, very difficult,’ Fernandes said.
Local residents look at a fire burning just outside their village of Charneca (Picture: AP)
Firefighters control flames approaching a road outside the village of Charneca (Picture: AP)
Local residents watch as a firefighting airplane drops its load outside their village (Picture: AP)
A firefighting airplane drops its load, with Guincho beach in the background, outside the village of Charneca (Picture: AP)Resident Francisco Reymao said that ‘it was very windy, so the fire front came all the way down with an astonishing speed.’
‘The firefighters could only watch during the night because it was impossible to control the fire,’ Reymao added. ‘Our luck was the start of the day when the aircraft were able to stop this … it would have been a tragedy here in Charneca.’
Wildfires routinely blacken large areas of forest every year in Portugal. Last year they also killed 106 people in what was by far the country’s deadliest fire season on record.
That was a wake-up call for authorities, who had been slow to react to demographic changes and a climate that was getting hotter and drier. This year the Portuguese government enacted a raft of preventive measures to reduce fire deaths, like employing goats to munch flammable undergrowth along key roads.
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