1,000 firefighters battle wildfires in central Portugal

Saturday, July 20, 2019 provided by TVI, members of the emergency services try to extinguish wildfires, in Vila de Rei, Portugal (TVI via AP)
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LISBON, Portugal — Some 1,000 firefighters are working to contain wildfires in central Portugal that have already injured eight firefighters and 12 civilians, authorities said Sunday.

Portugal's Civil Protection Agency said the fires broke out Saturday across three fronts in the district of Castelo Branco, 200 kilometers (124 miles) northeast of Lisbon, the capital. Firefighters are being supported by 10 firefighting aircraft and hundreds of vehicles.

It's the first major bout of wildfires in Portugal this year. Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita gave the injury toll Sunday and said authorities are investigating the cause of the blazes.

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State broadcaster RTP televised images of flames consuming wooded areas of the rural region that has seen recurrent wildfires in Portugal's hot, dry summer months.

While most of the injured were from smoke inhalation, one civilian was evacuated to a hospital to be treated for burns, according to health authorities.

At least one road was closed and several residents were told to leave their homes. The Portuguese Army deployed a mobile kitchen to help feed those affected by the fire and was using its tracked vehicles to help clear roads for firefighting crews.

In recent years, the country has witnessed some of its deadliest fires on record, with 106 people killed in 2017. That year's death toll prompted the Portuguese government to back stronger firefighting prevention measures, leading to no wildfire deaths in 2018.