Heat waves and large forest fires in Portugal

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Wildfires are sweeping across northern and central Portugal. On Saturday, the country recorded 125 fires, the highest number in a single day this year. Several villages have been evacuated as a precaution. The most worrying forest fires in Portugal on Monday morning were in the districts of Santarem, Leiria and Vila RealWildfires in Portugal have injured 29 people at the end of last week. 12 firefighters and 17 civilians required medical assistance. The European Union on Sunday activated its firefighting air fleet assistance program that allows member nations to share resources to help Portugal. More than 3,000 firefighters and 60 aircraft battled wildfires Sunday in the country. Portugal has long suffered large forest fires.

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Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa postponed his plans to visit Mozambique this week “in view of the weather forecasts that indicate a very serious worsening of the risk of rural fires.” At the same time, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa likewise canceled his trip to New York where he was scheduled to speak at the U.N. Economic and Social Council. Portugal’s government declared a state of heightened alert Saturday. The government has announced a “state of contingency” from July 11 to 15, on level beneath the states of calamity and emergency. Next week’s weather has caused further concerns due to high temperatures.The country has adopted restrictions barring public access to forests deemed to be at special risk, banned the use of farm machinery and outlawed fireworks, to prevent fires. The EU says climate change has the continent facing one of its hardest years for natural disasters such as droughts and wildfires.