Wild Fire in Portugal Devastates the Country
By admin June 27, 2017

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Central Portugal recently faced the worst forest fire in its history. The fire began on Saturday, June 17 in the Pedrógão Grande area and lasted for three days. The Guardian reports that 350 soldiers and 1,400 fire fighters were on scene to save people who were trapped in their cars. Sixty-four people died and many more were injured. Portuguese Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa says that eight of the victims were soldiers and firefighters.

Although it took three days to suppress the fire, Sousa asked that the country not receive any more aid in supplies. The influx of supplies was more than the task forces could handle, and posed some logistical difficulties. The government has been criticized for its handling of the emergency. “It’s the kind of natural disaster that is caused by many factors,” Sousa said, claiming that it is unclear whether the catastrophe could have been prevented. Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa has questioned the National Republican Guard on the circumstances of the situation. He has inquired about the reason for delayed response: whether it was due to the severity of the fire or internal communication issues. It seems that damaged phone lines from the disaster hindered communication. However, Costa reports that this affected alerts to the public, not emergency service coordination.

Alongside the police, the Red Cross also participated in the emergency period. Members helped evacuate people from their homes due to the proximity of their villages to the fire. Municipalities like Pedrógão Grande were completely surrounded by the fire. Portugal did not fight this battle alone. Fellow European countries like France and Spain have sent fleets of planes to help in the effort. In a press release during the spread of the fire, the EU claimed that their “Civil Protection Mechanism has been activated to provide firefighting aircraft.”

Many prominent figures have spread awareness of the situation and expressed their condolences to the victims. This includes Pope Francis, Spain’s President, and the Prime Minister of India. The Portuguese Football Federation also mourned the victims via Twitter and had a moment of silence before their first match in the Confederations Cup in Mexico City.

This is not the first time Portugal has experienced a harsh wild fire. Just last year in 2016, a dozen fires throughout plagued the country. The origin of the fire appears to be a dry thunderstorm, caused by the hot conditions of the weather. The week before the fire, the country experienced severe humidity and temperatures above 40° C. The situation was further exacerbated when the fire triggered cloud evaporation, preventing rainfall, and strong winds that allowed the fire to spread rapidly. However, the President of League of Firefighters is suspicious that the fire appeared to have been ignited two hours before the storm, leading her to believe the fire was a result of arson. The fire destroyed 74,000 acres of forest in its path.

The Portuguese government has called for a three-day mourning period to pay respects to the deceased. Schools in the area have been closed indefinitely.


Read More:

‘Panic Killed Those People’: Portugal Buries Wildfire Victims

Photos of the Deadly Wildfires in Portugal

Dozens die in Portugal’s worst forest fire

Portugal wildfire: 62 killed, victims burned in cars as they fled

EU Press Release on the deadly forest fires in Portugal 

Portugal forest fires under control after more than 60 deaths

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