Man runs away from the forest fire arriving to Malhao town in the Portuguese Southern province of Algarve.
A resident flees from a forest fire at the town of Malhao in the southern Portuguese province of Algarve, July 28, 2004.
Hundreds of firefighters supported by planes and helicopters battled forest fires across Portugal on Wednesday in a heat wave that reached a high of 40 degrees Celsius.
Portugal is recovering from huge fires last year that destroyed 13 percent of its forests and woodlands.
Source: Planet Ark
Latest Satellite Images
Terra 10:40 UTC
29 July 2004
Fires in Southern Europe Source: MODIS
Hundreds battle forest fires in Spain, Portugal
LISBON (AFP) Jul 30, 2004
Hundreds of firefighters in Spain and Portugal were Thursday battling raging fires which have destroyed thousands of hectares of scrubland and forced hundreds of people from their homes.
In Portugal, the southern province of Algarve, one of Europe’s top tourist destinations, was the worst-hit area, as officials were forced to evacuate residents of the village of Alportel because a fire that has burned out of control for three days started advancing on their homes.
“The situation has turned to complete chaos,” the mayor of the nearby city of Sao Braz de Alportel, Antonio Eusebio, told state television RTP.
“There are houses already burning in Alportel, people are being evacuated, there is a feeling of complete impotence in the face of the fire.”
Residents of the white-walled village of some 600 people scrambled to pack belongings into plastic bags and suitcases as they fled their homes which were lit up in an orange glow by the surrounding flames, images on RTP showed.
More than 500 firefighters aided by 60 soldiers were battling the blaze with the aid of water-dropping aircraft and more than 150 water trucks, emergency services said.
Thick black smoke from the blaze could be seen from the beaches and resorts that dot the coast some 50 kilometres (30 miles) further south as ash rained down on a large parts of the province.
“They say the world was once destroyed by water, now it looks like it is going to be destroyed by fire,” a local resident, Aldina Valente, told AFP by telephone, adding the thick smoke had blocked out the sun.
The Algarve was badly hit by a wave of fires which swept Portugal last summer and tourism officials said the new wave of fires would compound the damage done to the sector.
“Our main tourism zone, the coast, was not much affected by the fires, but nature tourism sites, which are in the interior of the province, are completely destroyed, it is depressing for anyone who visits,” the director of the Algarve Tourism Board, Helder Martins, told daily newspaper Jornal de Noticias.
Several other blazes have already been brought under control in central and northern Portugal as cooler weather and higher air humidity levels helped firefighters contain the flames.
Seven firefighters were injured, three of them with light burns, after they became surrounded by a wall of flames while battling a fire near the central town of Santarem.
Nearly 33,000 hectares (81,000 acres) of forest have been destroyed by fire since January, according to forest service figures released Thursday which do not include the damage done by the Algarve fire.
Meanwhile in Spain, some 14,000 hectares (34,500 acres) of forests, scrubland and pastures have been reduced to ash since Tuesday in the Huelva region not far from the border with the Algarve, according to the local fire services Infoca.
Some 550 firefighters were still trying to bring the blaze under control Thursday with the help of some 40 aircraft.
One thousand people living in six villages in the path of the blazes have been evacuated since the fire flared on Tuesday, although 400 have since been allowed to return to their homes.
Police have not ruled out that it might have been deliberately started.
On Wednesday, officials said nine mostly elderly people had died on Spain’s Canary Islands as a result of the heatwave gripping parts of Spain, taking the total death toll this summer to 19.
While southern Europe swelters in the heat, parts of central and eastern Europe were plagued by deadly flooding.
Three people were killed and about 2,000 left stranded by major flooding that cut off roads and railway lines in northern and central Romania while another death was reported in flooding that has hit eastern Slovakia.
Source: Terra Daily
Fire-weather forecast for Europe
Fire Weather Index (FWI) forecast for this week (left) and the predicted FWI total for next month (right) for Europe.
(Source: ECPC Fire Weather Index Forecast)
European Forest Fires Information System (EFFIS)
Portugal Fire Weather Index for 31 July 2004
Spain Fire Weather Index for 31 July 2004
Europe Fire Weather Index from 31 July to 2 August 2004