Planes and helicopters joined nearly 2,000 firefighters in central Portugal yesterday to battle huge wildfires in a mountainous region where more than 100 people died in huge blazes in 2017.
Some 1,700 firefighters and 400 vehicles were deployed in one of the biggest mobilisations ever seen in the area to fight the blazes in the heavily forested Castelo Branco region, 200 kilometres (120 miles) north of Lisbon, the rescue services said.
Around 20 people have been injured in the blaze, including eight firefighters and 12 civilians, according to the interior ministry. One badly burned civilian was evacuated by helicopter to Lisbon. Five regions of central and southern Portugal were on maximum fire alert yesterday because of the dry weather and winds.
In a message, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa expressed his “solidarity with the hundreds fighting the scourge of the fires”. However, temperatures were currently below the threshold of 41 degrees Celsius (105 Fahrenheit) at which a red alert is triggered.
The biggest effort, 800 firefighters, 245 vehicles and 13 planes and helicopters battled to douse flames in the municipality of Vila de Rei. That fire “remains active”, Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita told journalists.
Meanwhile, police said a 55-year-old man had been arrested in Castelo Branco suspected of setting a fire on the outskirts of the town, though this one was far from the main infernos. Authorities are looking into whether the fires may have been started deliberately, Cabrita said.