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Portugal prepares for fire intervention as heatwave approaches

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Lisbon (AFP)

Portugal said Monday it has mobilised more than 10,000 people and boosted control operations in fire-prone areas of the country ahead of a major heatwave to avoid a repeat of last year's deadly wildfires.

"This year, we have in place the biggest plan ever: 10,700 men and women around the country," including "voluntary firefighters, police and soldiers," Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita told local media.

Starting on Wednesday, Portugal will face a four-day-long heatwave when temperatures could reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in places, according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA).

Facing this weather outlook, "we are reinforcing control operations especially in the most vulnerable zones" by "already prepositioning the means of intervention" in the event of fires, said Patricia Gaspar, spokeswoman for the national civil protection authority.

"This plan allows us to gain time in the initial attack phase," she stressed, adding that this year rescue services have two planes that are currently involved in monitoring operations.

In June 2017, 64 people were killed in the deadliest wildfires in Portugal's history.

The fires burned for five days in the central Leiria region, breaking out at the height of a summer heatwave. Many of the victims died trapped in their cars by the flames while trying to escape.

Record high temperatures around Europe this summer have triggered deadly wildfires from Sweden to Greece.

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