The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting at which ongoing firefighting operations around the country were reviewed, on the basis of a report sent in by the assistant Secretary of State for home affairs.
“This very day the cabinet approved the creation of a working group, composed of the ministers of agriculture, the environment, home affairs and justice, to deal once and for all with structural prevention and to reform our forests,” de Sousa told journalists during a visit to Arouca, a municipality in Aveiro district that has been badly affected by fires.
“Our current priority is combating these fires and then thinking seriously about the reform of our forests,” the minister said.
She recalled that a decade ago, under the last Socialist government, there was a reform of the civil defence system.
In a statement on the subject, the government said that the new body would “prepare a range of measures”, with a view to their being discussed and approved at a future cabinet meeting devoted to forests, to take place after 30 September, once the critical period for forest fires is over.
That meeting is to see the adoption of various measures already in the government’s programme, such as accelerating the registering of rural properties and improving planning for forested areas.
As well as the ministries listed by de Sousa, the ministries of finance, defence and economy are also to be represented in the work group.
In related news, a group of Portuguese emigrants in the USA have joined together to help the victims of the fires in Madeira through the Red Cross delegation in the archipelago.
“Something simple for us can mean a lot to someone who has lost everything. Apart from anything else, foreigners have much higher wages. We can easily give €40 for a microwave. It’s tougher asking this of someone in Portugal who takes €500 home at the end of the month”, Joana Godinho, who is responsible for collecting the funds, told Lusa News Agency.
Joana decided to start collecting money at the beginning of the week by contacting friends and Portuguese charities in the USA, but soon realised that international bank transfers were a hindrance to the aid.
“There is always a transfer fee that can be as much as €30 on the amount that is transferred. As they are also accepting goods to re-equip the homes of those who were made homeless I saw that it would be easier to buy the things through Continente ‘online’ and send them to the Red Cross”, the TV producer said.
The Red Cross accepted the proposal and said that what they needed most were cookers, ovens, microwaves, irons, dishes, bed clothes and towels.
The wild fires in Madeira killed three people and destroyed government and private property worth an estimated €55 million.
The blazes forced the evacuation of over a thousand people from homes, hospitals, old-peoples’ homes and hotels.