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Firefighters battle new wildfires in Portugal, France as temperatures soar

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People watch as smoke rises from a wildfire in Venda do Pinheiro, Mafra, Portugal, July 31, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Hundreds of firefighters in Portugal have been battling a massive wildfire raging in a municipality near the capital Lisbon with high temperatures and strong winds making it difficult to contain the blaze.

More than 400 firefighters, backed by water-bombers and 123 vehicles, were deployed to the area after a fire erupted in a mountainous region of Mafra municipality at about 15:00 local time (14:00 GMT), Reuters reported.

Smoke rising from the wildfire could be seen from Lisbon's city center, nearly 33 kilometers south of the area, according to witnesses cited in the report.

Authorities had to block several roads and evacuate a care home as a huge cloud of black smoke billowed over the town of Venda do Pinheiro in Mafra, forcing many local residents to leave their homes out of fear.

Wildfires also raged in other parts of the country, including in the central municipality of Ourem, where flames destroyed thousands of hectares two weeks ago.

More than 1,000 firefighters were mobilized throughout the western European nation to put out multiple wildfires.

Portugal, like other European countries, has experienced a scorching heat wave in recent weeks, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) in various parts of the nation.

Although the heat has subsided slightly, temperatures are expected to soar again, according to local weather forecasts that predict three districts in northern Portugal would be on "red alert" for extreme heat on Monday.

Wildfire in France burns 250 hectares, injures firefighters

Meanwhile, a major wildfire in southern France burned 250 hectares of pine forest and injured four firefighters fighting the blaze on Sunday, according to local authorities.

A spokesperson for the fire service, William Borelly, described the fire in Aubais -- in the Gard region -- as “very violent” in an interview with France Info radio network, blaming strong winds and dry weather.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin stated in a Twitter post that four firefighters had been injured, two of whom being treated for burns.

The mayor of Aubais was also cited in a local newspaper as saying that several families and livestock were evacuated from the area.

Nearly 300 firefighters were deployed to contain the wildfire, with little success as of late Sunday afternoon, the civil protection services said.

As France experiences its third heat wave of this summer season, regions across the country have been put on high alert for wildfires.

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