Three dead as wildfire sweeps across Portuguese island of Madeira

A wildfire that has claimed three lives and displaced over a thousand people on the Portuguese island of Madeira on Wednesday reached the capital, Funchal.

At least three people have been killed in the blaze and two others are receiving hospital treatment for serious injuries, the regional government said.

One person is also missing, a statement said.

The victims were reportedly residents of two houses destroyed by the blaze on the outskirts of Funchal.

Since the fire broke out on Monday, over 1,000 people have been moved to safety. Among the evacuees are many hotel guests and visitors to the area, as well as the patients of two hospitals, according to local authorities.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa and President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa are expected to visit the island on Wednesday evening to assess the damage and ongoing risks.

Dozens of homes, factories and a popular hillside hotel overlooking Funchal have been destroyed by the blaze, local media reported.

Meanwhile, strong winds, extremely dry conditions and unusually high temperatures of up to 37 degrees have hampered attempts to extinguish the flames.

While the daily newspaper Publico described scenes of panic and chaos, regional premier Miguel de Albuquerque insisted that the situation was difficult but not catastrophic.

Situated off the north-west coast of Africa, Madeira is popular with tourists for its subtropical climate and annual flower festival.

Forest fires also broke out on Portugal's mainland on Wednesday. The civil protection agency said that mainly the north of the country was affected.

Portugal has turned to the European Union for help in managing the wildfires, the bloc's executive said Wednesday. In response, Italy has sent a firefighting plane, in addition to two aircraft deployed by Spain, according to a European Commission statement. 

"The EU stands in solidarity with Portugal to help it fight fires in the country," said Christos Stylianides, the commissioner responsible for crisis management. "Our thoughts are with all those affected," he added.

Last update: Wed, 10/08/2016 - 18:24
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