HOMEOWNERS armed with buckets of water have joined 1,800 firefighters desperately battling to save their homes as huge wildfires have spread across central Portugal.
At least 30 people have been injured due to the fires that have broken out in the Castelo Branco region of the Iberian country.
One civilian is in serious condition and remains hospitalised with first and second-degree burns.
Although the fires first started in a wooded, mountainous region they have now reached people’s homes with locals forced to try to protect their property as best they could with buckets of water and hosepipes.
Three fires broke out on Saturday in the 139-mile region northeast of Lisbon and two of them are still burning, fanned by strong winds, and have now reached a number of villages in the Vila de Rei and Macao areas.
The Portuguese town of Pedrogao Grande was devastated in June 2017 when a wildfire killed 64 people and injured more than 250 in the worst disaster in the country’s modern history.
In August last year British holidaymakers were evacuated from the five-star Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa on the Algarve after a wildfire came within a mile of it.
“The fire is out of control, without resources on the ground, and the population at risk,” Vasco Estrela, the mayor of Macao, told Portuguese radio station TSF. “We never thought we would live through this again.”
Images broadcast by Portuguese TV channel TVI showed villagers in Macao trying to protect their houses and animals as smoke filled the air, forcing many to wear masks.
“(It will be) an afternoon of intense work,” Belo Costa, a Civil Protection official, told reporters earlier on Sunday.
Sixteen airplanes and 354 firefighting vehicles on the ground are battling the blazes, along with 20 soldiers and four bulldozers, according to the agency.
Internal administration minister Eduardo Cabrita said police had opened an investigation on the fires, adding that local authorities considered it unusual that all the blazes had started in such a short space of time in the same area.
In a statement, police said that a 55-year-old man was detained on suspicion of starting a blaze in the Portuguese district of Castelo Branco.
Quoted by Portuguese newspaper Observador, a police source said the detention was not related to the ongoing fires.
A number of municipalities in Santarem and Castelo Branco are still considered at maximum risk of fire, according to the national meteorological agency.
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In the municipality of Macao, temperatures reached 34C on Sunday and are expected to increase to 37C on Monday as an extreme heatwave is due to hit continental Europe.
The fires’ smoky clouds could be seen from the Spanish border.
On Twitter, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said he is following the situation closely, adding that the European Union is ready to provide help.
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