In the worst day for forest fires this year, emergency services are stretched to breaking point with well over 300 separate fires having to be tackled in less than a 24-hour period.
Strong winds in the centre and north of the country have been taken full advantage of by arsonists who have set light to countryside, causing rapidly spreading blazes, some of which are simply out of control, according to commanders, including those in Monção (Viana do Castelo), Lousã and Arganil, both in Combra district.
The "worst day of the year" for forest fires has sent the authorities reeling, with all available fire service personnel in action at hundreds of sites with many homes and vehicles destroyed.
With the government still seeking a solution to what went wrong at this July's human tragedy at Pedrógão Grande, today’s firestorm took everyone by surprise with many blazes clearly started deliberately.
There have been around 7,000 personnel involved with 1,800 fire-fighting vehicles deployed since midnight on Saturday.
Jorge Gomes, the Secretary of State for Internal Administration, (pictured below) said the metrological conditions, including the "extremely strong wind" has been taken advantage of by arsonists in an estimated 189 fires on Sunday, “The fires did not start by themselves” said Gomes.
There were nine massive fires still blazing on Sunday late afternoon with 1,500 firefighters involved in the north of the country.
The situation in Arganil, Coimbra, has be called 'uncontrollable' by the command and several villages have been evacuated. The fire in Monção also is uncontrolled and has already torn across nine parishes.
More than 20 roads were cut off due to fires and, in addition to several national and local roads, the Autoestrada do Norte (A1) is closed between Albergaria and Mealhada in both directions.
Jorge Gomes also said that five firemen from Ovar Bombeiros were injured after their vehicle overturned. One has been kept in hospital.
Portugal’s mainland is at the edge of Hurricane Ophelia meaning that strong winds already have hit the north and central regions, fanning fires into fast-spreading infernos.
The rain due, as a result of Ophelia passing by as she heads north to Ireland, will be too late to be of any help in dampening down this weekend’s terrifying scenario.
The late afternoon Civil Protection press briefing referred several houses burned down and more than 15 villages evacuated due to the fires in Monção, Seia and Lousã
- Houses destroyed in Monção (in Velhas, São Paio and Barbeita), Valle de Cambra (a kindergarten at Pintalhos) and "several houses were affected in Lousã.
- In the Monção fire, people have been evacuated from their homes.
- In the Lousã (Coimbra) fire, people were evacuated from their homes with the aid of firefighters, the GNR and the Red Cross.
- By 17:30, there were 13 fires of high importance, the most serious at Monção, Seia, Vale de Cambra, Lousã, Sertã and Arganilm and there were still 88 active fires in the country, as well as 84 other flare ups in fire zones.
- At 19:15, the fire in Lousã, Coimbra, after 10 hours still had 498firefighters, 136 vehicles and a helicopter deployed.
- The fire in Seia, Guarda, which began at 06:00 on Sunday morning in Sabugueiro, has 306 operatives trying to put out the flames, backed by 93 vehicles and a helicopter. The fire forced closure of the EN17.
- Then the fire in Vale de Cambra, Aveiro that began today at 07:15 in Macieira de Cambra had two active fronts and was fought by 295 operatives, supported by 92 land resources.
- The fire in Sertã, in the district of Castelo Branco, continued with two active fronts, after having started at 12:00 in the locality of Ponte de Portelinhas. The flames were being fought by 276 operatives, backed by 82 vehicles.
- The two active fronts of the fire in Monção (Viana de Castelo) was fought by 226 operational supported by 63 vehicles. The fire has been burning for almost 24 hours.
- In Alcobaça, in the district of Leiria, two fires: one in the locality of Burinhosa was fought by 154 Bombeiros and another in the Praia da Légua needed 118 firefighters, supported by 36 vehicles and one helicopter.
Once again, the Algarve has escaped any serious incidents with the Alentejo remaining almost unaffected. The real damage has been above the latitude running through Lisbon .
For up-to-date fire locations, see: https://fogos.pt/
Jorge Gomes, the Secretary of State for Internal Administration