Heatwave: Portugal Devastated by Flames, Spain on High Alert

Hundreds of firefighters were still working on Tuesday evening to try to contain a raging fire in southwest Portugal. Spain, which is also experiencing a heatwave like its neighbor, has been placed on alert.


Portugal in flames. Hundreds of firefighters remained mobilized on Tuesday evening to fight a fire that has been raging for four days in southwest Portugal, which, like its Spanish neighbor, is currently experiencing an intense heatwave that has put most of the Iberian Peninsula on alert.

Over a thousand firefighters supported by ten aircraft were deployed near the southern Portuguese tourist region of Algarve where “nearly 10,000 hectares” have burned since Saturday, according to the latest report from Civil Protection Commander Vitor Vaz Pinto. He stated on Tuesday evening that the forest fire continued to progress “on two fronts,” and that firefighters had to deal with “several rekindling” in the region.

According to information reported by local media, but not yet confirmed by authorities, a house and its outbuildings, as well as a rural tourism accommodation, have been affected by the flames.

Overall, nearly 1,500 inhabitants from about twenty villages and vacationers staying in rural tourism establishments and a campsite have been evacuated since the start of this fire, along with over a hundred animals.

Fires ravage the Iberian Peninsula: Thousands of firefighters mobilized in Spain and Portugal © AFP
“There was fire everywhere”

“It was horrible. There was fire everywhere and we had to manage on our own. No one was there to help us, thankfully I had three friends who came,” said Ana Costa, a 40-year-old farmer, to AFP.

Across the whole territory, over 3,200 firefighters and 15 aircraft were on the frontlines on Tuesday evening to deal with several other hotspots.

Temperatures reached 40°C in some places on Tuesday, after breaking a record for 2023 (46.4°C) on Monday in Santarem, in the central region, according to initial estimates from the Portuguese meteorological agency.

The alert state remained in effect on Tuesday on both sides of the border. In Spain, temperatures are expected to reach 44°C on Wednesday, the day when this heatwave – the third of the summer – will be at its maximum, emphasized the Spanish meteorological agency Aemet.

The heatwave is expected to last until Thursday, with a dozen Spanish provinces on red alert on Wednesday in Andalusia, the Madrid region, Castilla-La Mancha, as well as in the Basque Country and its surroundings.

The Iberian Peninsula is at the forefront of climate change in Europe, with an increase in heatwaves, droughts, and wildfires. Nearly 100,000 hectares have already gone up in smoke in 2023 in Spain and Portugal, according to provisional reports, compared to over 400,000 hectares in total in 2022.


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