EU offers help to fight fires in Portugal and France

The Commission’s Response Centre has been activated to co-ordinate assistance to Portugal and France in combating forest fires that have destroyed over 80,000 hectares and claimed 16 lives in the past week.

29 countries participate in the EU system of civil protection which co-ordinated assistance from Italy, Spain, Greece, Germany and Norway. The EU Response Centre has been active since January 2002 and operates on a permanent basis 24 hours a day. It co-ordinates the assistance offered by the participating countries in case of natural or man-made disasters inside and outside the EU.

The Commission has been supporting forest fire-fighting services across Europe since the year 2000 by providing daily maps highlighting the probability of natural fire risks several days ahead of time. Every year over 50,000 fires turn an average of half a million hectares of forest into ashes causing enormous loss in terms of human life and environmental damage. The early warning mechanisms help civil protection and forest fire services in EU Member States to boost their fire fighting strategies.

Portugal declared a national disaster on 4 August after forest fires killed nine people. The declaration of a national disaster will allow the government to give over 110 million euro in aid to the victims of the fires.

Forest fires and record-breaking temperatures have claimed many lives and ravaged forests and agricultural land across Europe. Fires claimed five lives in France, while 18 people died from the heat in Spain and Germany. The unprecedented heatwave is likely to cost the European economy billions of euros.

 

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