Deadly Wildfire in Portugal, Water Dropping Planes From Spain, Italy & France


On Monday, more than 2,000 firefighters in Portugal fought to contain major wildfires in the central region of the country, where one fire killed 62 people, while the authorities came under rising criticism for not doing enough to avoid the disaster. The officials said that the reinforcements, including more water-dropping planes from Spain, Italy, and France, were likely to arrive as an important part of a European cooperation program.

The Portugal is experiencing three days of national mourning after the deaths on Saturday night around the town of Pedrogao Grande, around 150 kilometers north of Lisbon, which is by a huge margin the deadliest on record. With the temperatures crossing searing 40 degree Celsius, and plus strong winds and dry woodlands after weeks with little rain fuelled the fires. The blazed area is covered in the thick forest over steep hills. On the other hand, Portugal’s leading environmental lobby group, Quercus, issued a statement on Monday, blaming the blazes on “forest management errors and bad political decisions” by the government over late decades. The association censured experts for allowing the planting of huge swathes of eucalyptus, the nation’s most common and beneficial species, but one that is over and over again criticized for stoking fires.

The emergency services have also been condemned for not closing a road where 47 of the deaths happened as people fled the blazes on Saturday night. The government has acknowledged that the enormous blazes occasionally prompted to a breakdown in communications. According to a last year report by the European Environment Agency, in between 1993 and 2013, Portugal recorded the most twelve-monthly number of forest fires in southern Europe, including Spain, France, and Greece, despite the fact it is the smallest of those nations. The government also declared a raft of new measures against out of control wildfires in March. They included limitations on eucalyptus plantations and a simplified and cheaper program of property registration that looks to determine which land is being disregarded.

Not every one of those changes has come into legal force yet. The statistics demonstrate that 35% of Portugal is covered by forest, slightly more than the 28-nation European Union average of 31 percent. The forest industry, particularly the production of paper pulp, represents around 3 percent of GDP.