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On Friday, Portugal mobilized additional firefighting resources from the mainland to the picturesque Atlantic island of Madeira as it grappled with massive wildfires. This heightened response is an effort to combat the flames tearing through the landscape, prompting alarm and action.
The Madeira wildfires are ravaging the territories of two adjacent municipalities on the island’s west coast, Calheta and Porto Moniz. The blazes have set their sights on challenging-to-reach areas, further complicating firefighting efforts. Unseasonably high temperatures, predicted to peak at a scorching 30 degrees Celsius (86°F), only added to the challenge.
The Civil Protection Authority, on Friday morning, successfully located a group of 13 tourists who were in peril. These visitors had been forced to take refuge in a cave within the mountainous terrain of Porto Moniz. A rescue operation to safely extract them from this area was promptly launched.
“It was a complicated night, a difficult night,” said Patricia Gaspar, the Civil Protection secretary of state, in an interview with the public broadcaster RTP at Lisbon’s military airport. “The fires are still ongoing.” The entire coastline of Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal and home to approximately 250,000 residents, has been placed on an orange alert, the second-highest level, and is set to remain so until Saturday.
On the same distressing day, a third fire was reported in a forested region within the Camara de Lobos municipality, located west of the island’s capital, Funchal. This worrisome development puts even more pressure on the already stretched firefighting resources.
In Calheta, a blaze first ignited on Wednesday has now consumed approximately 70 square kilometers, more than half of the municipality’s total area, as reported by Mayor Carlos Teles. As a precaution, a care home and a health center were evacuated on Thursday, and 120 guests were promptly relocated from a hotel. This significant impact of the Madeira wildfires underscores the urgency of the situation.
Although several homes have fallen victim to the relentless fires in Calheta and Porto Moniz, the authorities report no serious injuries. Emanuel Camara, the mayor of Porto Moniz, described the events as a “night to forget” and confirmed that “many people” had been evacuated as a precautionary measure. He also conveyed that the wildfire had somewhat diminished in intensity but remained beyond control.
Gaspar has pledged the support of mainland firefighters for as long as necessary. A military plane carrying 64 firefighting personnel has already been dispatched to the island, reinforcing the 100+ local firefighters battling the flames relentlessly. The joint efforts of these dedicated firefighters are vital in their struggle to bring the Madeira wildfire under control and ensure the safety of both residents and visitors.
The situation in Madeira is a stark reminder of the challenges posed by unrelenting wildfires and the need for coordinated and efficient responses to protect people and nature.