(Portugal wildfires) Government faulted for shortcomings

World | 19 Jun 2017 10:21 pm

Fire experts are pointing to a series of shortcomings in Portugal's strategy of dealing with wildfires, two days after a forest blaze killed 62 people in central Portugal. 

There is a broad consensus that more work is needed on prevention, starting with forest cleaning and the creation of fire breaks. 

But Paulo Fernandes, a forest researcher at Portugal's Tras-os-Montes e Alto Douro University, notes that around 90 percent of landowners have smallholdings, making it difficult for authorities to oversee them all. Xavier Viegas, a wildfire expert at Portugal's Coimbra University, says Portugal needs a longer-term strategy. 

Both experts say local people need instructions on how to react when a wildfire is approaching so they don't act rashly. 

Officials say 47 people died Saturday night on a road as they fled the flames. -AP

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