Hundreds of firefighters tackle Portuguese wildfire as Europe suffers extreme weather

Massive blaze rages across Serra da Estrela as more high temperatures forecast

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Wildfires continue to rage across Europe caused by a heatwave that has caused drought conditions throughout the continent.

Officials in Portugal said a vast forest fire was "under control" after burning for days, but more than 1,000 firefighters were still battling to keep it contained on Thursday.

The huge fire in the Serra da Estrela national park in central Portugal had been brought under control last week, only to restart again Monday.

More than 25,000 hectares of land is estimated to have been scorched by the fire in the Unesco-listed park, home to diverse wildlife species including wildcats and lizards.

An official said late on Wednesday that the blaze was contained, but warned it could flare up again.

"The fire is under control, but it is not extinguished and consolidation work will continue in the coming days," civil protection commander Miguel Oliveira told TSF radio.

"It is always possible, and very likely, that there will be new reactivations, but we hope that they do not take on worrying proportions."

Weather forecasts are predicting a fresh heatwave on Saturday, the latest in a string of hot spells in Portugal this year. July was the hottest on record in nearly a century.

Interior Minister Jose Luis Carneiro said on Wednesday there was a high possibility of more fires breaking out in the coming days due to hot and dry conditions.

Since the start of the year, about 92,000 hectares have been burnt in Portugal, in the worst spate of wildfires since 2017 when about 100 people were killed.

Experts say climate change driven by human activity is increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and wildfires.

Neighbouring Spain has been battling a wave of forest fires in recent weeks after also recording soaring temperatures.

The Serra da Estrela fire started on August 6 outside the central town of Covilha and authorities say they sent 390 fire engines and 14 planes and helicopters in efforts to control it.

Firemen fight a forest fire in Vila Cortes do Mondego, Guarda, Portugal. EPA.

Firefighters, who hope to keep the flames from spreading further before temperatures are forecast to rise again Friday, have set up a 160-kilometre cordon around the area.

The blaze has left 27 people injured, including three seriously, while 45 people have been evacuated as a precaution since Monday.

Residents in the village of Orjais in the foothills of the mountain range helped fight back the flames which came within a few dozen metres of their homes.

"It was chaos, Fatima Cardoso, 62, told AFP.

After meeting meteorologists, Interior Minister Jose Luis Carneiro said: "We have not yet reached the end of this critical period for fires."

The next heatwave is forecast to last into next month, which Mr Carneiro said was set to be drier and hotter than usual.

Meanwhile, the UK has been hit by flash flooding as heavy rain fell after a drought forced water companies to place restrictions on millions of people's water usage in the country.

London mayor Sadiq Khan warned residents that “parts of London are still flooded or at risk of flooding”, after thunderous downpours on Wednesday.

The Environment Agency issued 17 alerts, covering London and parts of the south of England, stating that “flooding is possible”.

Heavy rain causes flooding in parts of the UK - in pictures

Updated: August 18, 2022, 1:21 PM
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