© Reuters. A firefighter works in the aftermath of a wildfire in Proenca-a-Nova, Portugal, August 6, 2023. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
LISBON (Reuters) – More than 1,100 firefighters and 14 water-carrying aircraft battled a wildfire in central Portugal’s Castelo Branco area on Saturday as civil protection authorities said hot, windy conditions meant it could take days to put out.
Smoke from the blaze, which has destroyed some 60 square km (23 square miles) of forest and undergrowth, reached the Fatima Sanctuary about 100 km (60 miles) away where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gathered to see Pope Francis on Saturday.
Authorities have evacuated about 100 villagers as a precaution, but Civil Defence Commander Jody Rato told reporters no casualties or damage to homes have been reported due to the fire.
He said the blaze that started on Friday afternoon in a remote area would “require some days of work” to contain as the land had plenty of combustible material.
The Portuguese state weather agency forecast temperatures to reach 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on Sunday in Castelo Branco, up from 38C on Saturday.
It also issued a red alert for heat in the capital, Lisbon, some 200 km (125 miles) to the southwest, where thermometers are expected to hit 41C on the last day of the pope’s visit.
August is usually the hottest month of the year in Portugal.
Extreme weather in July caused havoc across the planet, with record temperatures in China, the United States and parts of southern Europe sparking fires, water shortages and a rise in heat-related hospital admissions.