Portugal struggles to control a huge fire in a natural park

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Orjais (Portugal) (AFP) – More than 1,200 firefighters battled on Wednesday to control a huge wildfire in Portugal’s Serra da Estrela park, which flared up again just days after being brought under control.

Strong winds have hampered attempts to control the spread of the blaze, one of 195 that have ravaged some 92,000 hectares of land across Portugal this year amid record temperatures.

The fire in the UNESCO-designated park restarted on Tuesday after being brought under control five days earlier, and is estimated to have already consumed around 25,000 hectares (62,000 acres) of land.

It still poses a major challenge even if “90% of the perimeter of this fire is now under control”, declared the head of civil protection, André Fernandes.

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July turned out to be Portugal’s hottest in nearly a century, with the country battling its worst wildfires since 2017, when around 100 lives were lost.

Scientists say human-induced climate change contributes to extreme weather events, including wildfires and heat waves.

Neighboring Spain has also battled a wave of wildfires in recent weeks after also recording a spike in temperatures.

The Serra da Estrela fire started on August 6 outside the central town of Covilha and authorities say they have deployed 390 fire trucks and 14 planes and helicopters to try to control it.

Firefighters, hoping to stop the blaze from spreading further before temperatures rise again on Friday, have thrown a 160-kilometre (95-mile) cordon around the area, Fernandes told reporters.

The fire injured 27 people, three of them seriously, while 45 people have been evacuated as a precaution since Monday.

Residents of the village of Orjais, in the foothills of the mountain range, helped fight the flames which came within tens of meters of their homes.

“It was chaos,” Fatima Cardoso, 62, told AFP.

“We have not yet reached the end of this critical period for fires,” Interior Minister José Luis Carneiro warned after meeting meteorologists.

The next heat wave is expected to last until September, which Carneiro predicts will be drier and warmer than usual.

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