Edition 1458
13 January 2018
Edition: 1458

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Deadly wildfires return

in News · 20-12-2017 15:12:00 · 0 Comments

Long-awaited rain showers and cooler weather heralded the end of the fire season back in October, but not before the country saw another 44 people die in wildfires.

Deadly wildfires return

Overall, a total of 108 people, many of them firefighters, perished in what has been an unprecedented year for Portugal in terms of wildfires.
Fires have this year consumed the biggest amount of land ever. Flames destroyed an area 44 times the size of Lisbon.
In October alone, more land burned than in any year in the past decade.
While the rest of Europe has also been subjected to wildfires, the total area burned in Portugal this year was more than half that registered in the European Union.
With the horrors of the Pedrógão Grande fires, that claimed 64 lives, still fresh in the memories of Portuguese, it came as a shock that history had repeated itself so swiftly and with similar devastation four months later.
As news started emerging that dozens of people had once again lost their lives, Home Affairs Minister, Constança Urbano de Sousa, handed in her resignation.
It came hours after President ,Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, had called for political accountability and even asked Parliament to ponder whether the current government deserved its confidence in the wake of the weekend wildfires.
The outgoing minister, in her open resignation letter, revealed that she had offered to quit in June after the wildfires that claimed 64 lives, but was convinced to remain in office by Prime Minister, António Costa.
She repeated her request after 44 people died in October.
She said she had prepared the ground for policy changes expected to be adopted by the government.
Minister Urbano de Sousa had been under severe political pressure to quit. Investigations into the June wildfire deaths, which all occurred in one night, found numerous shortcomings in the official response, which all fell under her responsibility.
The resignation came as a failure in the communications system during the deadly June fire in Pedrógão Grande was believed to have contributed to the lack of coordination on the part of the firefighting and rescue services.
Authorities said arsonists were to blame for starting most of the wildfires, with the number of arrests already up to 153 for the year, triple the 53 people that were detained in 2016. According to police figures, of the 152 suspected wildfire arsonists, 20 were said to have been women.
While almost ten thousand investigations into fires were launched last year, fewer than 200 of these cases made it to the country’s courts.

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Edition 1458
13 January 2018
Edition: 1458

Read this week's issue online exactly as it appears in print.

Twitter