Wildfires raging in Portugal again, at least one person dead

Wildfires raging in Portugal again, at least one person dead

After hottest September in 87 years and temperatures between 32 to 36 °C (89.6 to 96.8 °F) into October, a series of wildfires are again raging in Portugal. At least one person was killed.

As of October 9, a total of nine fires are active in the northern half of the country, with blaze in Pampilhosa da Serra causing the most concern. A total of 663 firefighters, accompanied by 200 vehicles were battling the blaze which started on Sunday, The Portugal News reports.

Wildfires in Portugal this year have accounted for more than one-third of the burnt forest in the entire European Union. The agency added 90% of the fires were either intentionally or accidentally started by people.

In August, the Civil Protection Agency recorded a single day record for the year of 268 separate fires and in June, a catastrophic wildfire believed to be caused by a dry thunderstorm killed more than 62 people near Pedrógão Grande. Most of them died in cars while trying to escape, officials said.

According to the Institute of Nature and Forest Conservation (ICNF), the fires this year have destroyed more than 20 000 hectares (49 421 acres) of forest in Portugal's protected areas, of total protected areas covering 712 500 ha (1 760 625 acres).

The tally to the end of September was 20 883 ha (51 603 acres), including 72% of the Natural Monument of the Portas de Ródão, in the Tagus valley, and more than half the Protected Landscape of the Gardunha Range, in north-central Portugal. The devastation in the Douro International Natural Park, on the border with Spain, is accounting for the largest single swathe burned among protected areas, at 7 392 ha (18 266 acres), about 8.5% of the park's total area.

The ICNF report also notes that 51% of the Tua Valley Natural Park burned (at 1 265 ha / 3 125 acres), as well as 4.5% of the Azibo Reservoir Protected Landscape (at 149 ha / 368 acres), in Macedo de Cavaleiros and Bragança, and 4.4% of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park (at 3 962 ha / 9 790 acres).

Based on data from the European Union system that tracks forest fires and images from the Sentinel and Landsat satellites, it is estimated that, to the end of September, 13 657 ha (33 747 acres) of land managed as forest burned - about 2.6% of the total.

Overall, forest fires this year have consumed more than 215 000 ha (531 276 acres) - the largest amount in the last decade, according to the ICNF.

Featured image: Fire devil in Portugal, October 8, 2017. Credit: TVI

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