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Portugal fights to contain 10 forest blazes

ABRANTES (Portugal)

Portugal was battling a new rash of forest fires ahead of a weekend of warm temperatures, as authorities warned of further blazes.

Some 1,800 firefighters backed by hundreds of vehicles were trying to douse around 10 fires across the country, authorities said on Friday.

“Despite the relentless fires, the situation is now more stable,” said civil protection agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar in Lisbon.

Emergency workers had nearly gained control of wildfires across Portugal’s drought-hit central region on Thursday, but stronger winds fanned flames in several areas.

In Bracal, flames were being blown towards houses as residents grabbed what they could to aid firefighters, a journalist said.

“Firefighters can’t perform miracles, they are exhausted,” said Lucia Ricardo, who lives in Bracal, close to the central town of Abrantes.

Six villages had been evacuated around Abrantes on Thursday as planes flew sorties over the flames.

Another blaze near Grandola, in the southern Setubal district, needed 200 firefighters to bring it under control after burning through around 30 square kilometres of forest.

The fires come after more than 60 people were killed in June, and more than 200 injured, in a giant blaze at Pedrogao Grande in central Portugal that raged for five days.

After an uncommonly dry winter and spring, almost 79 per cent of the Portuguese mainland was enduring extreme or severe drought at the end of July, according to the national weather office.

This summer, a searing heat wave has helped spawn major fires in the Balkans, parts of Italy and Spain, and southern France and Corsica, as a changing climate affects countries across Southern Europe.

Agencies