Iberia burning: forest fires rage across Portugal

Friday, August 26, 2005

In Portugal, which is suffering its worst drought since 1945, some 1,500 firefighters and 600 soldiers battled forest fires that have raged for six days.They said cooler temperatures and higher air humidity levels helped them to contain more than a dozen fires but the risk of new ones remained high. Five fires were still burning out of control in the thick-wooded center and north of the country, down from 21 on Tuesday. The largest fire was raging in a forest near Coimbra, Portugal's third-largest city and forced the evacuation of around 60 people from a village near the central town of Penela but firefighters saw hope. "The intensity of the fire is diminishing considerably. Let's see if we are a bit luckier today," the fire chief of Penela, Mario Lourenco, told radio TSF. Neighboring Spain, too, has this week battled blazes in the north that have so far destroyed more than 19,000 hectares (46,800 acres) this month.