Patrícia Gaspar from Portugal’s Civil Protection Authority confirmed at 10:00 on Monday morning that the number of people that so far have lost their lives as a result of the fires that have swept through central and northern regions, can be confirmed at 27 so far, with 51 injured, 15 of these are in serious condition.

Fatalities have been reported from the Guarda, Coimbra, Viseu and Castelo Branco districts but the figure of 27 will rise as more reports are received.

Unusually high seasonal temperatures this weekend attracted many arsonists who set a record number of fires in parched forest areas that were fanned by strong winds created by the passing of Hurricane Ophelia. This deadly spree has left huge areas blackened, countless animals dead and further human tragedy as the nation has yet to come to terms with the June fire in Pedrógão Grande in which 64 died.

Prime Minister, António Costa, declared a state of public calamity early this morning for districts north of the Tagus and triggered help under the European Civil Protection mechanism to bring in help from Morocco, Spain and France.

Patrícia Gaspar said that of the 27 confirmed dead, 15 were registered in the district of Viseu, 10 in the district of Coimbra, one dead in the Guarda district and one dead in the Castelo Branco district.

One of the fatalities recorded in Viseu resulted from a crash on the A25, at Vouzela as vehicles, fleeing from the flames, crashed into one another.

Patrícia Gaspar said that victim numbers had been collected by local authorities and validated by the emergency ambulance service.

“We have people who were found dead on the road, we have people who were found in agricultural buildings, we are counting all the people who died as a result of fires that are still raging in the country. This data is not final, we still have several operations as fires are continuing. We will have to wait for the next few hours,” she added.

“Yesterday was a day in which we broke all the records of this year: we reached a total of 524 fires and today, since midnight, we already have 110 forest fires registered,” said Gaspar, adding that currently there are 32 fires classified as serious, with six beginning to “show some signs of being controlled.”

Mid-morning on Monday, 145 fires were still in play with 4,127 already exhausted personnel tacking them with the help of air support.

The June fire in Pedrogão Grande is still being assessed by the government as the first official report is mulled over and the second is on its way.

Poor leadership, failed emergency communications equipment and a failure to evacuate villagers are the key findings to date.

Gaspar confirmed that yet again the SIRESP emergency system has failed under emergency conditions, raising further questions about the government’s continued defence of the group of companies supplying the system.

This second series of fires leading to the death of citizens, piles pressure on the government which to date has tried to talk it way out of trouble, citing the ‘forest reform’ it has pushed through but avoiding many other issues such as the professionalism of the command structure, the high cost of hiring air support from private contractors, the poor record of catching and jailing arsonists, the refusal by the government to use the Armed Forces – notably the Air Force to supply firefighting air support – and the failure to implement rural land use laws that has left swathes of forest deep in combustible natural scrub and old branches.

A full and serious review is needed and large changes made to a firefighting system in which certain big players profit from fires, while other lose their lives.

UPDATE: the death toll had reched 31 by 13:30 on Monday

For up-to-date fire locations, see: https://fogos.pt/

 

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