Nearly 1,000 firefighters were battling a wildfire in southern Portugal on Tuesday that has been raging for four days, scorching thousands of hectares and forcing the evacuation of around 1,400 people.

The wildfire started on Saturday in the municipality of Odemira, in the Alentejo region, but has since spread south towards the Algarve, one of Portugal’s top tourist destinations.

High temperatures and strong winds have hampered efforts by the firefighters and six water-dousing planes to extinguish the flames, whichhave destroyed some 7,000 hectares, including large areas of highly flammable pine and eucalyptus trees.

Jose Ribeiro, regional commander of the emergency and civil protection authority (ANPC), said weather conditions were expected to remain challenging.

Shortly before sunset on Monday, the sky in Odemira turned dark as a huge smoke cloud filled the air.

Odemira’s mayor, Helder Guerreiro, called the situation “critical, difficult and complex”, while Ribeiro said the perimeter of the fire had been contained for now but there was stillwork ahead to bring it under control.

“It is a worrying situation,” Ribeiro told reporters on Tuesday, adding there were two active fronts, with one heading to Monchique, a lush green mountainous area in the Algarve’s countryside.


Andre Fernandes, ANPC’s national commander, said bulldozers were being used to build fire breaks and prevent the blaze from spreading further.

Monchique, which last burned in 2018, is popular among locals and tourists due to its thermal springs and hotels.

Around20 villages, one of them in Monchique, four tourist accommodations and a camping site have been evacuated as a precaution. Several roads have also been blocked off.

There are currently several wildfires burning across Portugal but Odemira is the most worrying, Fernandes said.

This summer most southern European countries have been grappling with record-breaking temperatures during the peak tourist season, prompting authorities to warn of health risks.

Scientists say heat waves are becoming more frequent, intense and spread out across seasons due to climate change.

Three districts in northern Portugal were placed under red alert on Tuesday.Temperatures were expected to hit 41 Celsius (105.8 Fahrenheit) in the northern city of Castelo Branco.

Authorities say more than 120 Portuguese municipalities, including in Lisbon, Alentejo and Algarve, are at maximum risk of wildfires.

“The weather conditions we are going to experience in the coming days means any small occurrence (fire) could become a big one,” Civil Protection secretary of state Patricia Gaspar told a news conference.