ALAGOA, Aug 27 – Firefighters and local residents struggled Tuesday to tackle raging wildfires that have consumed large swathes of forest in Portugal and Spain and cost the lives of four emergency workers.
“This cursed fire won’t give us a break and seems hellbent on destroying everything in its path,” said Manuel Pinto, a resident of Povoa in central Portugal who was beating back the flames with a branch alongside exhausted firefighters.
A volunteer firefighter who tackled the same blaze as a female colleague killed last week in the mountains of central Portugal has died from his injuries, his commander Carlos Coelho said Tuesday.
The 23 year old’s death brings the number of emergency responders killed in Portugal’s August fires to four.
More than 800 firefighters were mobilised in Portugal to tackle the blazes, which have intensified overnight due to high winds.
A spokesman for Portugal’s emergencies agency repeated his call for France to remain in the country after two French planes were dispatched to drop water on affected regions this week.
“The French mission is supposed to be completed Thursday, but we asked for an extension. We are waiting for a response,” said Miguel Cruz, spokesman for the Civil Protection Authority.
Two Spanish planes had also helped Portuguese authorities take on the fires but returned home at the weekend.
Cruz said Portugal would not ask neighbouring Spain for more help because of their own “difficult situation”, as firefighters and water dumping planes battled a large wildfire in Spain’s northwest that drove residents from their homes, according to officials.
The blaze, one of hundreds to ravage Spain’s parched land over the summer, broke out late Monday near Oia, a village on the Atlantic coast near the border with Portugal.