Thousandsof firefighters are tackling a new wave of forest fires that have been ragingfor two days as Portugal is gripped by a heatwave. Portuguese interior ministerAntonio Costa urged people in the centre and north of the country to remainvigilant and help prevent the fires spreading. Speaking after visitingfirefighters in the central town of Leiria, he warned that the situation couldget worse.
Water shortages and temperatures above 40C are making the operationdifficult.
Somepeople in remote villages were forced to leave their homes.
About3,000 firefighters, with help from hundreds of vehicles and 16 aircraft, havebeen struggling to bring about 17 fires across the country under control. “Weare facing very difficult moments which will probably last over the coming days,since weather conditions will remain adverse,” Mr Costa told reporters.
“Instead of dramatising the risks we face overthe coming days, we need to take steps to mobilise to confront them victoriously.”Some homes in remote villages were evacuated and one man, trapped by the flames,was badly burned near Ourem, 120 km (75 miles) north of Lisbon. People in ruralparts have been asked to clear an area of 50m around their homes as a safetyprecaution. The worst of the fires were in Leiria and Aveiro to the north ofLisbon. Fires near Aveiro, on the coast, forced the closure of a 15km (nine-mile)stretch of the main Lisbon-Porto road. Fires have destroyed 68,000 hectares offorest this year in Portugal, which faces its worst dry spell since the 1940s.