Portugal has been suffering a wave of fires for four days, which has already affected 2,500 hectares and which could worsen with the weather conditions that are forecast for the coming days, with intense winds, tropical nights and temperatures that will exceed 40 degrees in many areas , which also adds to the drought situation that the country is going through. “Avoiding the worst means facing a combination of factors that is perhaps the worst since Pedrógao Grande,” said Interior Minister José Luís Carneiro, referring to the incident that killed 66 people in June 2017.
The Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere has declared an orange alert for high temperatures in 8 of the 18 districts of the country for this Monday and expects a worsening for Tuesday, when all will become orange alert, with the exception of the Algarve. The agency forecasts that high temperatures will continue until the end of the week.
To reinforce the fight against the fire, the Government activated from this past midnight and until next Friday the “contingency situation”, the first of the three levels of alert that is contemplated in the Law of Civil Protection Bases and that reinforces the means that work in the extinction. The declaration, which until now had only been used during the pandemic, also tightens the prohibitions to avoid new accidents such as the celebration of fireworks, cork extraction or work with machinery in forest areas. In a statement from the Ministry of the Interior it is warned that it will be a crime of disobedience to fail to comply with the new regulations.
As of Sunday afternoon, 107 fires were active, concentrated in the districts of Porto (34), Lisbon (13) and Braga (8), and which have caused fifteen injuries. As a preventive measure, several villages were evacuated. The Municipal Chamber of Lisbon, one of those on orange alert due to high temperatures, has canceled all events in the city’s parks and has limited traffic in Monsanto, the great green lung of the capital, until Friday fifteen.
Portugal activated the European Civil Protection Mechanism to request emergency assistance in the central area of the country and received the help of two amphibious aircraft from Spain, which joined the 60 of the Portuguese device.
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The worsening of the situation in recent days has led the Prime Minister, António Costa, and the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, to suspend their official trips to Mozambique and New York. Both have made requests to citizens to avoid risky practices that could lead the country to an extreme situation like the one experienced in 2017, although Rebelo de Sousa assured that there has been great progress. “There is no comparison, the information available is much better than ever. We know more and we know better: this allows better forecasting, better planning and better prevention. There is no doubt that we learned a lot from the 2017 fires,” he explained this Sunday during a visit to the headquarters of the National Emergency and Civil Protection Authority, which coordinates the entire device.
Prime Minister António Costa is scheduled to visit today several operations posts and units involved in the extinction tasks in Coimbra, Lousã and Viseu.