Temperatures soar in Iberia as wildfires force the evacuation of 1,400 in Portugal
August 9, 2023 By Barry Hatton, The Associated Press
LISBON, Portugal (AP) — More than 1,000 firefighters are battling a series of wildfires in Portugal as it and neighbouring Spain experience several days of extreme summer heat, with temperatures in many areas rising above 40 degrees Celsius (104 F).
Three major fires raged in Portugal on Tuesday, with the biggest in the southwest near the town of Odemira, where on Monday about 1,400 people were evacuated from villages and a camp site as a precaution. They were gradually returning home on Tuesday.
The National Civil Protection Service said about 1,000 firefighters, 320 vehicles and nine aircraft were deployed at that fire on Tuesday. It has so far scorched around 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres).
The recent spate of wildfires came as temperatures have spiked. On Monday, the city of Santarem, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of the capital, Lisbon, set the year’s highest temperature at 46.4 C (115.5 F). Temperatures are forecast to fall nationwide from Tuesday, though they will mostly remain above 30 C (86 F).
Spain is faring better with its wildfires this week despite the high temperatures of the country’s third heat wave this summer.
Officials said three fires that started over the weekend have been brought under control or had been extinguished Tuesday.
The biggest blaze, in the northeast, burned about 600 hectares (1,500 acres) and required the evacuation of 150 people.
The only fire out of control in Spain is in the southwest near the Portuguese border. Some 20 people in two rural hostels were evacuated. Strong winds were reported to be complicating firefighting efforts.
Spain’s AEMET weather agency said temperatures will continue to rise at least until Friday, with some areas of the southern Andalusia region hitting 44 C (111 F).
A drought in Spain for the past two years has led to water restrictions in several parts of the country. Spain’s Ecological Transition Ministry said Tuesday that reservoirs nationally were at 41% of their capacity owing to high temperatures and the severe lack of rain.
Associated Press writers Ciaran Giles in Madrid and David Brunat in Barcelona, Spain, contributed to this report.
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