August 25, 2005

Portuguese fires revive as temperatures climb

LISBON (Reuters) - Forest fires that have ravaged central
Portugal and killed at least 14 people revived on Thursday,
flaring up as summer temperatures rose during the day, the
national fire service said.

In the afternoon, seven small fires were out of control,
the biggest near Santarem, about 60 km (35 miles) northeast of
Lisbon, the service said in a statement.

Cooler weather and clouds had helped firefighters snuff out
fires that have devastated forests in central Portugal and on
Thursday morning, for the first time in many days, the fire
service reported no blazes.

The respite brought relief to 4,200 volunteer firefighters
who "have been stretched to the limits of their resistance,"
Interior Minister Antonio Costa said late on Wednesday.

Portugal is enduring its worst drought on record. The
National Forest Fire Authority estimates that more than 180,000
hectares (450,000 acres) of woodland have burned so far this
year, already the second-highest annual figure since 1980.

Aircraft from France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands
have been helping to fight the fires, which have swept through
eucalyptus plantations and hillside forests but destroyed
relatively few buildings.