Portugal: As wild fires fade, survivors blame government for deaths | News | DW | 17.10.2017
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Portugal: As wild fires fade, survivors blame government for deaths

At least 41 people have been killed in devastating wild fires that swept across parts of Portugal and Spain. Politicians and residents of towns hit by the deadly fires have blamed Lisbon for the soaring death toll.

The Portuguese civil protection agency on Tuesday said wild fires that swept across northern and central Portugal left 41 people dead.

"Most of the victims were killed in their cars, but we also found them inside their houses," said Jose Carlos Alexandrino, town mayor of Oliveira do Hospital. "The whole the city looked like a ballo of fire, surrounded by flames on all sides."

Read more: How climate change is increasing forest fires around the world

Nearly all major wildfires were out by Tuesday morning, according to Portuguese authorities. At least half of the more than 5,000 firefighters deployed were expected to stay out to prevent re-ignitions in the country's smoldering forests.

Iberian officials have blamed arsonists for the late season forest fires, saying authorities have launched investigations to discover the cause of the deadly phenomenon.

"We are ready to extinguish fires, but we are not ready for arsonists," Spain's Environment Minister Isabel Garcia Tejerina told state broadcaster TVE.

'Grave failure'

Assuncao Cristas, who leads the small center-right CDS-PP, called for the government to step down and launched a motion of no-confidence in the minority Socialist government.

"There has been a grave failure to fulfill the most basic duty of the state – to protect the lives of the people," said Cristas.

Local politicians and civic groups have organized protests in Lisbon, while angry residents in Galicia chanted "Never again" to protest the government's response to the wildfires.

Read more: Climate change sets the world on fire

But Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa has rebuffed calls for his government to resign over the deaths. "This is not a time for resignations, this is a time for solutions," Costa said in a statement.

In Portugal, more than 350,000 hectares have been burned down in wild fires, making it the worst-hit EU nation this year. Portugal's wild fire season begins on July 1 and ends September 30, after which fire-fighting assets are cut by half.

ls/jm (AP, AFP, dpa)

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