Juncker to re-organise civil protection assistance after Portugal’s fires

Juncker: "We will consider, at Portugal's request, the reorganisation of civil protection in Europe." [Stuart Rankin/Flickr]

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Monday (30 October) that the EU was mulling “re-organising” the civil protection assistance in Europe following the deadly forest fires in Portugal.

“We will consider, at Portugal’s request, the reorganisation of civil protection in Europe,” Juncker said at a press conference alongside Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

In the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, the EU can deploy civil protection aid through either in-kind assistance, with the deployment of specially equipped teams, or send experts to the field to assess and coordinate with local teams.

Wildfires trap 2,000 villagers in Portugal

Forest fires cut off a village of 2,000 people in Portugal, as firefighters struggled on Thursday (17 August) to control two major blazes in the centre of the country, local officials said.

In mid-June, 64 people died when huge forest fires swept the central Pedrao Grande region of Portugal. Those were followed in the middle of October by new fires that killed 45 people, according to a toll by the country’s civil protection agency.

Nearly half of all forests burned in the European Union in 2016 were in Portugal, where fire-prone eucalyptus and pine plantations along with poor soil encouraged the deadly flames.

The country is set to break the record for destroyed forests in 2017, with recent disasters killing dozens of people.

The Portuguese government has promised to prevent new tragedies by carrying out “fundamental reforms” in forest management and firefighting.

Juncker, a former Luxembourg prime minister who on Monday began a two-day visit to Portugal, said the disaster touched him “personally”.

“One of my fellow citizens perished in the fires here in Portugal,” he said.

Tropical storm hits Europe, fuels wildfires in Portugal and Spain, batters Ireland

Tropical storm Ophelia killed at least 36 people in wildfires raging through Portugal and another three in Spain on Sunday and Monday (15 and 16 October). Three people died in Ireland as the storm battered the island’s southern coast, knocking down trees and power lines and whipping up 10-metre waves.

 

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