Wildfires that have been raging through Portugal since Friday are threatening the city of Funchal on the Portuguese island of Madeira and could displace hundreds of thousands of people who live in the city. Atleast three people have already died before they could be evacuated, while thousands of homes have been destroyed. Over 4,200 emergency workers have been dispatched by the Portuguese government to fight the flames.
As of early Wednesday there were a reported 176 active fires still burning with a dozen that are particularly concerning. On Friday, following several weeks of very dry, hot conditions fires began on the Portuguese mainland, in the Northwestern part of the country.
The following Monday the blazes started roaring through the island of Madeira, located off the Western coast of Portugal. Funchal, the island’s largest city is home to 112,000 year round residents and was also a major tourist area.
Portugal has called on The EU Protection Mechanism requesting help from other countries as well as dispatched a large portion of its military to Madeira. Recently an Italian aircraft was sent to assist in stopping the destruction. After over five days of battling many of the firefighters are becoming exhausted and spirits are growing low.
Workers from the National Parks most affected by the fires are blaming a lack of fire prevention on the part of the government, but President Rebelo de Sousa claims that wasn’t the case. The President says that despite the large number of fires still burning, the situation is under control.
The fires heading towards Funchal are of the most concern. Funchal is not only the largest city on the island but also a major historical center, of great cultural importance to the people. Unfortunately, parts of the old historic city are said to already be caught up in the blaze.