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Minister summons help from Spain, France and Morocco to battle the largest number of fires in Portugal's history

fireforestPortugal’s Minister for Internal Administration Constança Urbano de Sousa, has been forced to ask for help from European neighbours as the country continues to suffer from hundreds of fires raging across the central zone.

Extra air support, one Canadair aircraft and two 'Air Tractors' plus ground support teams, have been sent from Madrid to help tackle the most intense period of fires the country has ever experienced. Other countries are busy with fires of their own and, in Greece's case, is helping out in Albania.

The SIRESP communication system, if anyone had lingering thoughts that it would work under pressure, has again proved insufficient to cater for the volume of calls with insufficient mobile backup systems available for placement in areas where overhead cables have been destroyed.

The prime minister has weighed into the SIRESP row and lays the blame fair and square at the doorstep of one of the owning companies, Portugal Telecom, now controlled by Patrick Drahi’s 'Altice Group' from France.

António Costa has stated that SIRESP's failures resulted from "the collapse" of Portugal Telecom’s cable system and that PT is responsible "for the failures of communication in the tragedy of Pedrógão Grande."

"What failed was that a large part of the SIRESP's emergency network is based on PT's fixed network which is based on aerial cables that, of course, in a burning forest area, are on fire. Communications collapsed," said Costa, referring to his statements to the conclusions of the preliminary report from the Telecommunications Institute (which is partly funded by SIRESP shareholders.)

Despite his anger, the prime minister denies the need for drastic interventions such as nationalising SIRESP or tearing up the contract with the company.

This may be due to the fact that it was António Costa who signed the SIRESP contract in 2005 while holding the post of Minister of Internal Administration in the José Sócrates administration.

Costa's attack on PT is disingenouous as his government has failed to action a 2014 report outlining the inherent, but solvable problems with the system, with political inactivity as much to blame as system failure. The report was shelved by former minister, Miguel Macedo, who went for contract cost savings rather than a system upgrade.

Last Thursday’s record of 215 active fires in one day has been smashed with Saturday’s tally of 268 stretching emergency forces beyond their limits with exhausted personnel taking on blaze after blaze, many of which have been started deliberately.

There have been injuries but, thankfully, no fatalities and the help from Spain, France and Morocco will boost morale as well as capabilities.

As at 13:00 on Sunday August 13th, there is one fire shown as ‘active’ in the Algarve - at Fontes dos Louseiros, Silves - but the entire southern region so far has remained untroubled by the multiple blazes that have turned significant parts of the area between Lisbon and Oporto into what resembles a war zone.

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0 #2 nogin the nog. 2017-08-15 13:51

There is something very wrong with the number of fires we find ourselves at the mercy of this year. I am not convinced this is either acts of god or single minded lunatics, but it is starting to become organized. Sentences should fit the crime and be life imprisonment..
-3 #1 Elsa 2017-08-13 16:33
Each year we have the brave lads on the Tour of Portugal panting it through the August fires of Portugal on TV. This year fires topping an awesome 300 on some days (check procivs website). The helicopter rarely shows anything significant due to swift cutting between cameras but the ground level shots of cyclists often showing fire smoke around and about them. Have a look on RTP1!

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