By Thomas Cabral with Bruno Cravo in Penacova
Lisbon (AFP) Oct 18, 2017
Portugal's interior minister has been replaced amid criticism over the government's handling of a series of deadly forest fires that have killed more than 100 people in four months.
Constanca Urbano de Sousa handed her resignation to socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa Wednesday, bowing to increasing political pressure as the death toll mounted.
"After this summer, nothing can remain as before," said Costa, who initially resisted the demand for Urbano de Sousa to go before backing down while admitting the state service providers had made "serious errors" in tackling the problem.
"If you want me to apologise, then I apologise," Costa said speaking in parliament while Urbano de Sousa lamented in a resignation letter not having "the political and personal conditions necessary to carry out my functions."
She will be replaced by deputy prime minister Eduardo Cabrita, the government announced Wednesday.
On Sunday, a series of deadly wildfires broke out in the centre and north of the country which killed 42 people and injured another 71, the civil protection agency said.
Similar huge blazes in June killed 64 people and injured 250 near the central Pedrogao Grande region, in what were the deadliest wildfires in the country's history.
In all, some 280,000 hectares (690,000 acres) of forest in Portugal's central Pinhal interior region have been laid waste so far this year in the country's worst natural disaster in living memory, according to European monitors.
- Rural exodus -
The fires have prompted a rural exodus, said professor Rui Amaro Alves, a specialist in land management at the Castelo Branco Polytechnic Institute.
"Those who have stayed behind are mainly the elderly in scores of little villages right in the forest," Alves told AFP.
With so many having fled the land lies all but abandoned and recent severe drought afflicting the area has only exacerbated the problem.
Most of the area is home to pine and eucalyptus, with the increasingly dominant latter, a mainstay of the paper industry, especially flammable.
Carlos Fonseca, a 42-year-old biologist who owns land in the area, noted that areas where strawberry trees had been planted in place of eucalyptus had proved more resistant to the flames and said such measures should be taken "on a larger scale."
After the tragedy in June, the government came under mounting criticism for failing to develop a coherent strategy to fight forest fires, which has further sharpened over its inability to prevent another devastating disaster in recent days.
On Tuesday evening, hundreds gathered in Lisbon under the pouring rain to demonstrate their anger over the government's failings, shouting "Shame!" and "Resign!" in a protest organised through Facebook.
"A hundred people are dead and nobody is taking responsibility... We need answers!" one demonstrator said on national television.
On Monday, promised to prevent new tragedies by carrying out "fundamental reforms" in forest management and firefighting.
But a day later, conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said the socialist government should "bear all the consequences of this tragedy".
Portugal on Tuesday began three days of national mourning for the victims.
Ventosa, Portugal (AFP) Oct 16, 2017
Fernando Lourenco, 71. his wife and sister were asleep in their home in western Portugal when the flames engulfed the hillsides and descended into the village, The retirees never woke up. "I was at one end of the village battling the flames and in two minutes the wall of fire had already reached the other side," said Ricardo Lopes. a 37-year-old teacher, his eyes red from the fumes and fati ... read more
Forest and Wild Fires - News, Science and Technology
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|