Portugal, Spain try to stamp out wildfires after deadly week

AP News
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Posted: Aug 15, 2016 11:05 AM
Portugal, Spain try to stamp out wildfires after deadly week

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Firefighters in Portugal and Spain kept battling scores of wildfires Monday after a week of the worst fire destruction in years on the mountainous Iberian Peninsula.

Stoked by winds and high temperatures, the wildfires have killed at least four people in Portugal and one in Spain over the last week and forced hundreds to flee their homes.

On Monday, Portugal's National Civil Protection Service said around 2,000 firefighters supported by over a dozen water-dumping aircraft were tackling more than 50 different fires throughout the country. One of the most stubborn blazes, however, had finally been brought under control a week after it started near the central town of Sao Pedro do Sol.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa acknowledged the trouble his country has had in fighting the fires on so many fronts when he visited the scorched Arouca region.

"There have been a large number of fires in the country and our resources were pushed to the limit," Costa told the Portuguese press.

In Spain, 10 water-dumping planes and helicopters helped over 400 firefighters on the ground attack flames in the northwestern province of Galicia, where fires have swept across 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) of land.

Galicia's government said that there were seven active fires, four of which were under control, in the region that sits on the northern border of Portugal. It added that five firefighters were taken to the hospital — four due to smoke inhalation and one from injuries received in a road accident.

Televised images from both countries showed residents dousing homes and nearby woods to try to stave off the flames through Sunday night and into Monday morning.

Last week over a dozen major wildfires forced the deployment of almost 4,500 firefighters throughout Portugal. The worst fire swept overnight into the capital of the Atlantic Ocean island of Madeira, where it killed three elderly people, injured over 300 and razed homes and a hotel.

Spanish police have made several arrests of alleged arsonists suspected of setting some of the fires.

One particularly devastating fire on the Canary Islands was started unintentionally when a German man tried to burn his soiled toilet paper, sparking a conflagration that destroyed 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) of forest on La Palma.