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Wildfires trap 2,000 villagers in Portugal

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Staff Writer | August 18, 2017
Forest fires cut off a village of 2,000 people in Portugal, as firefighters struggled to control two major blazes in the centre of the country, local officials said.
Portugal wildfire
Europe   Arsonists and human negligence
And with another wave of hot weather forecast, the government declared a state of emergency in some central and northern regions of the country.

Portugal’s Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa meanwhile blamed arsonists and human negligence for most of the summer’s fires.

Vasco Estrela, the mayor of the embattled village of Macao, told the Lusa news agency: “It’s impossible to leave or to enter Macao because of the flames and the smoke.”

The fire, which broke out on Tuesday evening, had grown stronger through Wednesday and by the small hours of yesterday morning had surrounded the village, he said, adding: “The fire is continuing unabated.”

Already at the end of July, a major fire had destroyed between 80% and 90% of the village, he said.

The emergency services have had to evacuate around 130 people from nearby villages, said Patricia Gaspar, spokeswoman for Portugal’s civil protection agency the ANPC.

But firefighters were most worried about the fires around Macao, which were continuing to advance on several fronts, she added.

The forecast of hotter weather in the coming days – increasing the risk that old fire sites will rekindle or new ones break out – convinced the government to declare a state of emergency in parts of the country.