Wicked Wildfires continue raging in Spain and Portugal

MADRID (AFP) – – Hundreds of firefighters battled to control wildfires in Spain and Portugal Thursday, as a massive blaze raged for a third day in a military zone, officials said.

Some 300 firefighters and soldiers backed by 18 water-dropping aircraft were deployed in Spain’s northeastern Aragon region to control a fire that broke out Tuesday inside the military camp at San Gregorio near the city of Zaragoza.
The head of the forestry department in the Aragon region, Alberto Contreras, said firefighters had halted the advance of the flames on one front that was heading toward a pine forest near the town of Zuera.

The most active front was moving towards the village of Remolinos, the Aragon government said in a statement.
It said the fire, fueled by scorching temperatures of 40 C (104 F), has destroyed some 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres) of forests and scrubland, most of it within the military zone.

Between January 1 and August 9 wildfires have ravaged 84,064 hectares of land in Spain, more than during all of last year and the highest amount in the past decade, figures released Wednesday by the environment ministry showed.
More than half of the fire damage this year was in northeastern Spain.
The blazes have claimed eight lives, including six firefighters, since last month.

In Portugal, firefighters were battling a blaze in the northeastern district of Braganca, in the Douro National Park near the Spanish border.
On Wednesday, a fire in the south of the park spread into Spain, leading to the evacuation of the village of La Bouza in the province of Salamanca. Local officials in Spain said Thursday that the fire has now destroyed 350 hectares.
The fire in Braganca was one of four that erupted Thursday in the north and the centre of Portugal, following a brief respite from massive blazes on Wednesday, civil protection authorities said. By late afternoon, the other three had been extinguished.

On Wednesday alone, Portuguese authorities deployed almost 2,800 firefighters to battle 152 fires.
Fires destroyed nearly 24,000 hectares of land between January 1 and August 15 in Portugal, around 7,000 hectares more than all of last year.
In Greece meanwhile, strong winds on Thursday fanned two fires on the western and eastern outskirts of Athens, forcing authorities to suspend traffic on one of Greece’s busiest motorways, the fire department said.
Last week Greenpeace warned that heat waves and drier land caused by climate change have combined with “land use changes, abandonment of rural areas and a lack of management of forest areas” to make forests “more flammable, leading to ever larger and more uncontrollable fires.”

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