Portugal wildfires: Huge operation tackles central Portugal blazes

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Media caption,

Some people attempted to extinguish fires near their homes

Hundreds of firefighters have spent the day battling wildfires in a forested, mountainous area of central Portugal.

Eight firefighters and 12 civilians have been injured in the Castelo Branco region, according to the interior ministry.

One badly burned civilian was evacuated by helicopter to the capital Lisbon.

Helicopters and tanker planes have been used to douse three major blazes in the region, with two now said to have been brought under control.

The biggest operation - involving 800 firefighters, 245 vehicles including bulldozers, and 13 planes and helicopters - is tackling a fire in the municipality of Vila de Rei.

Image source, AFP

That fire remained "active", Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita told journalists.

He added that an investigation had been launched to discover whether the fires might have been started deliberately.

"There's something strange. How is it that five such large fires broke out in areas that are so close to each other?" said Mr Cabrita.

The Portuguese army said it had sent soldiers and machinery into the area to open routes for firefighters.

Image source, AFP

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa expressed his "solidarity with the hundreds fighting the scourge of the fires".

The fires started on Saturday afternoon and were fanned by strong winds.

Villages were evacuated as a precaution, and several major roads were closed.

Wildfires are an annual problem in Portugal. The country is warm, heavily forested, and affected by strong winds from the Atlantic.

Dozens of people were killed in huge fires there in 2017.

Six regions in central and southern Portugal are currently on high alert for fires.

Image source, EPA