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Scorching heat lead to 62 wildfires across Portugal

Europe News.Net - Saturday 12th August, 2017

ABRANTES, Portugal - As temperatures soared in Portugal, authorities said that about 2,600 firefighters were engaged in dousing 62 wildfires that were raging across the country. 

Officials said that the scorching heat comes months after the country received a brief respite following a spate of wildfires this year. 

Addressing a news conference, civil protection agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar said that weather conditions will be "especially favourable for wildfires" until Sunday, with strong winds and temperatures of up to 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) forecast.

She added that to help battle the flames, Morocco had sent a water-dropping plane and neighbouring Spain sent two.

In June this year, the fires come after more than 60 people were killed and over 250 injured in a massive blaze that raged on for five days at the Pedrogao Grande in central Portugal.

The civil protection agency said that as of Thursday night, 11 fires were still out of control, while the rest had been tamed or were being dampened down.

Further, about 800 firefighters backed by 250 vehicles were said to be at the scene of the biggest blaze in a forest near the central town of Abrantes.

Abrantes mayor Maria do Ceu Albuquerque said that the fire had reached the outskirts of the city, adding, "The night is going to be very difficult.”

Due to the raging fire, officials had to evacuate four nearby villages because of the threat from the flames and smoke.

Firefighters added that the low air humidity levels and strong winds, which frequently changed direction, were complicating the efforts to douse the flames.

A blaze was also reported in the town of Mealhada, which forced the closure of a 30-kilometre stretch of the A1 highway linking Portugal's two largest cities Lisbon and Porto.

The southern city of Grandola also saw a blaze that forced the closure of the railway linking Lisbon to the southern province of the Algarve.

According to Jaime Marta Soares, the president of the Portuguese Firefighters' League over 80 percent of wildfires in Portugal had a "criminal origin.”

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