The European Commission said on Monday it had “mobilized its fleet of firefighters to help Portugal fight destructive forest fires”, as residents evacuated their homes in dangerous areas.
Weather experts in Portugal say temperatures of up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius) could be reported from Tuesday in the Alentejo – the region between Lisbon and the Algarve, Sky News reported. Strong winds of 40 miles per hour are also expected in several areas. Local media reported on Monday that the fires in the neighborhoods of Santarém, Leiria and Vila Real were “of most concern”.
Wildfires are not uncommon in Portugal, a heavily forested country that is fanned by winds from the Atlantic Ocean. Spain, which has also experienced devastating forest fires in recent weeks, sent two firefighting planes to Portugal on Sunday, while the European Union said he was “ready to provide further assistance”.
Experts say extreme heat and abnormally hot temperatures will only become more frequent and severe as the world grapples with the effects of man-made climate change. Last month, a historic heat wave across Europe broke records in France and Spain, where temperatures reached an unusual 104 degrees for the month of June.
Scientists have long warned that climate change is extending Portugal’s “wildfire season” by two to five months, the BBC reported. In 2017, more than 100 people died as a result of fires which led to widespread condemnation of the government’s response to wildfires. Some emergency workers complained of a lack of equipment, while others said the forests were not properly managed or protected.
The stream The nationwide state of emergency means that people are banned from forest areas deemed to be high risk and farmers are asked not to use any type of machinery that could cause a spark.
Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa took to Twitter during the weekendwriting “PLEASE DO NOT START FIRES OR USE MACHINERY.”
The use of fireworks at celebrations and festivals has also been banned due to high temperatures and drought, the Associated Press reported.
The fires broke out quickly in some areas. “It was very sudden, a lot of smoke, all of a sudden the old house lit up,” a witness told the BBC on Monday.
In Spain last month, wildfires broke out near Valencia and other parts of the country after days of extreme heat. In Italy, Rome recorded its highest temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.6 Celsius).
Poland and Austria have also been hit by abnormally high temperatures, as has Britain, a country where air conditioning is scarce, raising concerns for the elderly and homeless.
Hannah Cloke, a climatologist at the University of Reading, told the Washington Post that Britain was “really unprepared” for the extreme heat, with offices, homes and nursing homes “unbuilt to help keep people cool.”