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LOOK: Four Portuguese towns evacuated as forest fires rage

Firefighters work to stop a forest fire from reaching the village of Avelar, central Portugal. Picture: Armando Franca/AP

Firefighters work to stop a forest fire from reaching the village of Avelar, central Portugal. Picture: Armando Franca/AP

Published Aug 11, 2017

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Madrid - More than 2 100 firefighters have been deployed across

Portugal to combat fires in more than 170 locations barely two months

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after a series of devastating fires in the country claimed 64 lives.

The mass deployment also involved a total 680 vehicles and 15

aircraft, the Portuguese civil defence reported in Lisbon on Friday.

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A man on the balcony of a house looks up at a forest fire raging on a hillside above the village of Avelar, central Portugal. Picture: Armando Franca/AP

The fires were at their worst in the municipality of Abrantes, some

130 kilometres north-east of Lisbon. On Thursday, the residents of

four villages under immediate threat from the intense blazes were

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brought to safety.

Some of the mostly elderly residents were in a state of panic, the

television news station TVI24 reported. In the village of Aldeia do

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Mato, an 80-year-old woman's house was completely destroyed by

flames.

Portuguese National Republican Guard firefighters work to stop a forest fire from reaching the village of Avelar, central Portugal. Picture: Armando Franca/AP

A highway and a country road were also closed off for several

kilometres overnight on Thursday due to the billowing flames, but

have since be reopened.

Despite a persistent drought in the region and strong winds, almost

all of the fires were brought under control during the night, said

Maria do Ceu Albuquerque, mayor of Abrantes, to local TV station RTP.

A number of people have been killed in forest fires in central Portugal, many of them trapped in their cars as flames swept over roads. Picture: Armando Franca/AP

"There is only one dangerous fire location left, but it will still

give us a lot of work," she said.

In many regions, highly flammable eucalyptus trees have been the main

cause of the fires. This had also been the case with the severe fires

that tore through the Pedrogao Grande municipality in the centre of

the country, some 50 kilometres south-east of the city of Coimbra, in

June.

In addition to the 64 fatalities caused by the June fires, 20 000

hectares of land were destroyed. According to official data, around

138 000 hectares of forest have been destroyed in Portugal since

January.

The country is experiencing its worst year for fires since 2005, when

321 000 hectares were destroyed by forest fires.

dpa

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