More than 1,000 firefighters battle Portugal wildfires

A firefighter monitors the progression of a wildfire at Amendoa in Macao, central Portugal on July 21. (AFP pic)

AMENDOA: More than a thousand firefighters battled early Sunday to control huge wildfires that have forced village evacuations in central Portugal, where dozens were killed in huge blazes in 2017.

By the early hours of Sunday morning more than 1,000 firefighters and 400 vehicles had been deployed to fight the blazes in the mountainous and heavily forested Castelo Branco region, 200km of Lisbon, according to the website of the Civil Protection.

Efforts to douse the flames using around 20 aeroplanes and helicopters had been halted as night fell.

A civilian who suffered serious injuries was evacuated by helicopter to Lisbon, Luis Belo Costa, the commander of the civil protection for the region said.

Four firefighters were also reported injured, and a further three were hurt after their fire engine collided with another.

The army said in a statement it was dispatching 20 soldiers and machinery to open routes “to facilitate access” for the firefighters.

Several national highways have been closed and a number of villages in the region have been evacuated as a precaution, the civil protection said.

The most threatening of the three fires was 90% under control according to Belo Costa.

“We aim to have the three fires under control by 6am or 7am,” he said.

“This is an ambitious goal given the terrain we are fighting on,” he added, but the weather helps, with truces in gusts of wind.

In a message President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa expressed his “solidarity with the hundreds fighting the scourge of the fires.”

Portugal is still traumatised by the deaths of dozens of people in blazes in 2017, with authorities taking extra precautions.

Fanned by strong winds, the fires had been spreading in three directions since Saturday afternoon.

Six regions of central and southern Portugal have been placed on maximum fire alert.