Madeira devastated by wildfires, three killed and thousands evacuated

Published on : Wednesday, August 10, 2016

MadeiraThree people have been said to have been killed and thousands evacuated as wildfires advanced upon Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira.


An elderly woman was killed after her home caught fire in the city centre. Officials said two other people also died and one was missing.


Flights have been disrupted from the popular holiday island of Funchal.


On Tuesday night, local media reports said the flames had reached Funchal’s historic centre of Sao Pedro, though the worst blazes on Wednesday morning were said to be on the eastern side of the city.


The head of Madeira’s regional government, Miguel Albuquerque said that more than 300 people had to be treated for smoke inhalation and minor burns.


The blaze, fuelled by hot weather and strong winds, led to the evacuation of about 1,000 local people and tourists in the archipelago off north-western Africa. About 30 houses and a five-star hotel have been devoured by the fire.


Residents are using garden hosepipes and buckets of water to keep the flames at bay, as strong winds are worsening the situation.


Fire service officials said Madeira’s steep hills and dense woodland made it hard to reach the flames.


Eight firefighters required medical treatment after inhaling smoke as high winds fuelled the blaze. More than 200 patients had to be evacuated from a small hospital as a precaution, authorities said.


Around 3,000 firefighters are trying to extinguish more than 500 forest fires across Portugal, using 23 water-dumping aircraft.


The mainland’s northern area has been worst hit, where the region’s pine and eucalyptus forests are tinder-dry after a long spell without rain.


Seven fires in the north have been classified as major blazes that are out of control.


In the area around Viseu, which is 180 miles north of Lisbon, a wildfire forced the closure of a major motorway.


In nearby Agueda, roads were closed and power lines were cut by wildfires.

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