16 October 2017 (Protect Mother Earth) – Hurricane Ophelia's strong winds are blamed for fanning flames of deadly forest fires in Portugal and Spain

At least six people have been killed and around 25 others injured – mainly firefighters – during Portugal’s worst day of the year for forest fires.

Around 500 blazes were reported in the country’s central and northern regions where a state of emergency has been declared.

Soaring temperatures of up to 36 degrees celsius have been recorded – extraordinary for mid-October.

Deadly forest fires sweep across Portugal and northern Spain


Scientist Police inspects the remains of the car where two women died after a wild fire in Pontevedra, in the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia, Spain, Monday, 16 October 2017. Authorities in Portugal and Spain say that hundreds of wildfires fanned by strong winds have caused multiple deaths as people got trapped by fast moving fires. Photo: Lalo R. Villar / AP Photo

LISBON, Portugal, 16 October 2017 (AP) – Late season wildfires that broke out over the weekend in Portugal have killed at least 35 people, including a 1-month-old infant, authorities said Monday, making 2017 by far the deadliest year on record for forest blazes in the country.

In neighboring Spain, wildfires have also killed at least four people and prompted the evacuation of thousands in the northwest region of Galicia, as the remnants of winds from Hurricane Ophelia fanned the flames along Iberia's Atlantic coast.

The fires returned to Portugal four months after a summer blaze claimed 64 lives in one night. The year's current total of 99 deaths is far higher than the previous annual record of 25, in 1966.

A one-month-old baby was among the dead, the Civil Protection Agency said Monday. The infant's body was found near Tabua, some 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Lisbon. The parent's bodies reportedly were found nearby. Officials did not provide further details.

Civil Protection Agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar said the death toll could rise.

"We are still searching burnt areas to see if there are any more victims," Gaspar told The Associated Press. […]

Emergency services recorded 523 wildfires Sunday, the highest number in a single day this year and the highest on one day in more than a decade. "You don't see that in any other country in the world," said Civil Protection Agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar.

A prolonged drought has made the calamity worse this year.

"We have all our firefighters out there doing everything they can," said Home Affairs Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa, who is in charge of emergency services and has been the target of criticism for her handling of the tragedy.

She said climate change has brought an additional factor into the battle against woodland fires. Due to climate change, "large-scale catastrophes are now a reality all over the world," Urbano de Sousa said. That meant more effort has to be put into preventive measures, she said. [more]

Portugal wildfires kill at least 35; 4 dead in Spain

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