Portugal fights major fire sweeping towards Algarve

Situation 'critical and complex' as flames approach popular tourist destinations

Thousands forced to flee wildfires in Portugal

Thousands forced to flee wildfires in Portugal
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A wildfire is spreading rapidly towards the tourist region of the Algarve in Portugal, potentially disrupting summer holidays.

The blaze, which broke out in Odemira in the south-west of the country, has already burnt about 6,700 hectares, prompting the evacuation of at least 1,400 people from 19 villages, holiday apartments and a campsite.

Nearly 1,000 firefighters were tackling the flames on Tuesday, their efforts complicated by high temperatures and strong winds.

Andre Fernandes, ANPC's national commander, said bulldozers were being used to build fire breaks and prevent the blaze from spreading further.

Jose Ribeiro, commander of the emergency and civil protection authority, said weather were expected to remain a challenge.

“It is a worrying situation,” Mr Ribeiro said. He added that there were two active fronts, with one heading to Monchique, a lush green mountainous area in the Algarve countryside.

The sky over Odemira turned dark on Monday as a massive smoke cloud loomed overhead.

Local officials have described the situation as “critical, difficult and complex”, and many roads have been blocked.

Mr Ribeiro said a “lot of work” was ahead to bring the fire under control.

With temperatures in some parts of Portugal expected to reach 41ºC, national weather agency the IPMA has put six districts on red alert for extreme heat until midnight.

On Monday, the temperature in Santarem, central Portugal, reached 46.4ºC, setting a record for 2023, as per provisional data from the meteorological office.

Authorities have declared more than 120 municipalities across Portugal, including in Lisbon, Alentejo and Algarve, at maximum risk of wildfires.

Patricia Gaspar, Civil Protection Secretary of State, said the current conditions could easily escalate any small fire into a significant one.

British Airways and easyJet are running flights to and from Faro as scheduled. This comes as major airlines and tour operators took varying measures in response to the fires on the Greek island of Rhodes.

Jet2, easyJet and Thomas Cook cancelled flights and holidays to affected areas of Rhodes, with offers of refunds, while British Airways offered customers the chance to change flights free of charge.

Ryanair continued to operate flights as normal, with the situation being closely monitored.

The Iberian Peninsula is experiencing the harsh impacts of climate change in Europe, as it faces increasingly severe heatwaves, droughts and wildfires.

A large wildfire broke out on Monday in Estremadura, central Spain, near the border with Portugal. Firefighters were unable to contain it overnight.

Lindsey Whitelaw who is currently in Portugal described fleeing her campsite due to the forest fires.

There are huge forest fires here in #portugal The eucalyptus is very flammable and we have had to escape our camp site #sky #skyphotography #art #whitelawchristophides #fire #smoke #photo #photography

Posted by Lindsey Whitelaw Artist on Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Multinational force combats Cyprus wildfire

In Cyprus, another fire has drawn a multinational response, including assistance from Lebanon, Greece, Jordan, and Israel.

They have provided firefighting aircraft, ground crews and tonnes of flame retardant to combat the blaze, which has scorched about 8.5 square kilometres of mountain terrain near Limassol.

The fire had been largely contained but rekindled in several areas on Monday, forcing crews to mobilise once again.

Authorities plan to remain at the scene to prevent any flare-ups, and firefighting aircraft were scheduled to take to the sky again on Tuesday.

Cyprus Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou has called for an initial estimate of the damage to both private and state-owned property.

Residents of three villages were able to return to their homes after being instructed to evacuate as a precaution.

Agriculture and Environment Minister Petros Xenophontos played down suggestions of arson, citing strong winds where the fire is believed to have rekindled.

The wildfires in Southern European countries have coincided with record-breaking temperatures during the peak summer tourist season.

Scientists attribute the increasing frequency and intensity of heatwaves to climate change.

Updated: August 09, 2023, 8:03 AM