Wildfires ravage Portuguese nature parks

Portuguese firefighters were on Monday battling 14 major wildfires mainly in the north of the country, civil protection authorities said.

The authorities were the most concerned about about a blaze raging in Peneda-Geres nature park about 100 kilometres north-east of Porto near the Spanish border.

About 150 firefighters were combating the flames with the help of some 50 vehicles.

Several smaller fires were also reported near Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese Atlantic archipelago of Madeira.

Fires that had raged there in the recent days had devastated 95 percent 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 brought under control a blaze which burned down 140 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. - Sapa-dpa


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