Eighteen major wildfires rage in Portugal
Portuguese firefighters were battling 18 major wildfires on Monday, mainly in the north of the country, civil protection authorities said, dpa reported
The three largest fires were reported in the districts of Viana do Castelo, Viseu and Guarda. They mobilized about 460 firefighters, using 115 vehicles and 12 aircraft or helicopters.
Some of the wildfires devastated nature parks, including Peneda- Geres near the Spanish border and Serra da Estrela near the municipality of Gouveia, where flames had to be prevented from reaching a campsite and an elderly people's home.
Several smaller blazes were also reported near Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese Atlantic archipelago of Madeira.
Fires that had raged there in recent days consumed 95 per cent of Funchal Ecological Park, destroying a decade of efforts to replant indigenous species in the area measuring 1,000 hectares, the daily Publico quoted environmentalists as saying.
A suspected arsonist was detained on Madeira and two on the Portuguese mainland, bringing the total of identified suspects to 19 so far this summer.
Portugal has registered more than 14,000 wildfires so far in 2010, about as many as over the previous three years, civil protection authorities said.
The risk of wildfires remained high because of hot and windy weather mainly in the north and centre of the country.
Several wildfires were reported also in the north-western Spanish region of Galicia, which borders on Portugal.
Firefighters were struggling to contain a blaze that burned down 450 hectares in Boiro. Local officials attributed the fire to unidentified arsonists whom they suspected of deliberately putting the lives of firefighters in danger.
Two firefighters were killed Friday in another Galician wildfire, the causes of which were being investigated.
Meanwhile, another fire destroyed more than 1,000 hectares of bushland near Leon in northern Spain.