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Monday, 6 August 2018

'We could see the flames': British tourists evacuated from luxury resort on the Algarve as wildfires sweeping Portugal for the third day in a row come within one mile of hotel

  • Large forest fire in Monchique in the south of Portugal has continued to rage on two fronts overnight
  • Hundreds of guests were told to leave the Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa at just after midnight
  • Flames had come withing one mile of the hotel, part of a British chain, and fire was visible from resort
  • Blaze, which can be seen from the Algarve half an hour's drive away, is being tackled by 1,150 firefighters
British holidaymakers have been evacuated from a five-star hotel on the Algarve in Portugal, after a wildfire came dangerously close to the upmarket resort.
Hundreds of tourists were told to leave the Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa in Monchique, some 20 miles north of Portimao, just after midnight.
Staff, who confirmed that a majority of guests were British, said they had been ordered to evacuate as the forest fire came within a mile of the hotel and flames cold be seen from the windows. 
More than 1,150 firefighters are still struggling to put out the fire which started on Friday, and grew over the weekend during the heatwave currently sweeping large parts of Europe.
Wildfires swept across Monchique in the south of Portugal today in the wake of a heatwave across Europe which saw temperatures soar to 46C
Wildfires swept across Monchique in the south of Portugal today in the wake of a heatwave across Europe which saw temperatures soar to 46C
Hundreds of tourists were told to leave the five star Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa in Monchique, some 20 miles north of Portimao, just after midnight when flames came within a mile of the hotel
Hundreds of tourists were told to leave the five star Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa in Monchique, some 20 miles north of Portimao, just after midnight when flames came within a mile of the hotel
Portugal on fire: Video footage shows forest fires in Monchique which have been raging over the weekend
Portugal on fire: Video footage shows forest fires in Monchique which have been raging over the weekend
A worker at the hotel, part of the British Macdonald hotel chain, described the night as 'rough' and confirmed guests were still not back.
He said: 'Firefighters and the local town hall asked us to evacuate. We could see the flames because the fire was only about one to two kilometres away.
The hotel's maximum capacity is 500 people and most of our guests at this time of the year are British.
'Everyone was evacuated safely. We hope they can come back today but as things stand this morning they're not back yet and are still at the hotels in Portimao they were taken to.'
Although he was not able to specify the exact number of people ordered to leave, overnight reports said the hotel had been about 70 per cent full when the evacuation took place.
Rescued: The Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa was at 70 per cent capacity and staff said a majority of the guests are British
Rescued: The Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa was at 70 per cent capacity and staff said a majority of the guests are British
The blaze has grown so large that the flames can be seen from the Algarve coast which is around a half an hour drive away
The blaze has grown so large that the flames can be seen from the Algarve coast which is around a half an hour drive away
Destroyed: A British man hailing from Devon, named only as Mr Harris, returns to his home in Monchique on Monday
Destroyed: A British man hailing from Devon, named only as Mr Harris, returns to his home in Monchique on Monday
A car is parked in front of a house, both destroyed by the flames during the last days forest fires in Monchique, Algarve
A car is parked in front of a house, both destroyed by the flames during the last days forest fires in Monchique, Algarve
One of the more than 800 firefighters in the area  works on an active fire on a hillside outside the village of Monchique
One of the more than 800 firefighters in the area  works on an active fire on a hillside outside the village of Monchique
The Monchique wildfire broke out on Friday, in a eucalyptus forest in an area called Perna da Negra in the wake of a heatwave which have seen temperatures soar to 46 degrees in some parts of the country.
Officials have sent more than 1,150 firefighters, 350 fire engines and at least nine airplanes to the area in an attempt to bring the blaze under control.
A 72-year-old woman - one of 25 people injured - was airlifted to hospital in Lisbon in a serious condition on Sunday.
Footage taken overnight by locals living in Monchique, a favourite of former British Prime Minister David Cameron, showed a blanket of flames and smoke encroaching on buildings in the outskirts.
Villages near to Monchique - including Portela do Vento and Odemira - were evacuated. 
Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said he was in constant contact with local authorities but tried to play down fears of a repeat of last year's devastating wildfires which killed 64 people and injured more than 250 in the central town of Pedrogao Grande alone.
Insisting the number of people tackling the fire from the ground and the air was far greater, he said: 'At this moment the situation is a confined and limited situation and that is undoubtedly the difference to what happened last year.'  
Officials have sent 810 firefighters, 226 vehicles and nine airplanes to the area in an attempt to bring the blaze under control
Officials have sent 810 firefighters, 226 vehicles and nine airplanes to the area in an attempt to bring the blaze under control
On Saturday weather records were broken in eight cities as Portugal was gripped by the hottest day for 18 years according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere
On Saturday weather records were broken in eight cities as Portugal was gripped by the hottest day for 18 years according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere
The National Civil Protection Authority issued instructions for citizens in the affected area and told the public that if they cannot leave their home they should move curtains and couches away from windows and to close doors and other openings
The National Civil Protection Authority issued instructions for citizens in the affected area and told the public that if they cannot leave their home they should move curtains and couches away from windows and to close doors and other openings
On Sunday, Portugal's National Civil Protection Authority issued instructions for citizens in affected areas and told the public that if they cannot leave their home they should move curtains and couches away from windows and to close doors and other openings.
On Saturday, weather records were broken in eight cities as Portugal was gripped by the hottest day for 18 years according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA). 
The extremely high temperatures have been caused by an influx of hot air from Africa. Forecasts indicate that the hot air from Africa, which turned parts of the sky a dark yellow hue because of the dust it carried, will not abate until early next week.
The extremely high temperatures have been caused by an influx of hot air from Africa
The extremely high temperatures have been caused by an influx of hot air from Africa
Forecasts indicate that the hot air from Africa, which turned parts of the sky a dark yellow hue because of the dust it carried, will not abate until early next week
Forecasts indicate that the hot air from Africa, which turned parts of the sky a dark yellow hue because of the dust it carried, will not abate until early next week
Pictured: two women hug at the village of Monchique in the wake of the wildfires that have ravaged the region for three days
Pictured: two women hug at the village of Monchique in the wake of the wildfires that have ravaged the region for three days

Greek fire and police chiefs are replaced after wild fire disaster which left 91 dead

The Greek government, widely criticised for its handling of the devastating fires east of Athens which killed 91 people, on Sunday replaced its heads of the police and fire brigade.
'The management of the firefighters will now be handled by the current deputy chief, general Vassilios Matheopoulos' and the police by 'the current deputy chief of the force, general Aristidis Andrikopoulos', a brief statement from the office of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said.
The announcement comes two days after Greece's minister responsible for the police, Nikos Toskas, quit on Friday.
Opposition parties have accused the government of failing to provide adequate warning and evacuate the coastal resort of Mati which had been frequently hit by wildfires, in addition to subsequently trying to hide the scale of the loss of human life as the disaster unfolded.
The main opposition conservative New Democracy party earlier described Toskas's resignation as 'too little, too late', arguing that Tsipras - who has accepted political responsibility for the tragedy - should also step down.
The fires burned with such ferocity that most people fled to the sea with just the clothes on their backs.
In the days that followed, the firefighters and police - both departments under Toskas's responsibility - issued conflicting announcements over what went wrong.
The Greek government, widely criticised for its handling of the devastating fires east of Athens (pictured) which killed 91 people, on Sunday replaced its heads of the police and fire brigade
One police union this week said officers had not been promptly notified by the fire department of the fire's exact location in order to set up proper roadblocks in the area.
As a result, many drivers were mistakenly diverted into the fire zone and died after becoming trapped in the Mati's narrow streets.
Local administration officials were also criticised for holding an emergency response meeting hours after the fire broke out, when Mati had already been overwhelmed.
Toskas said he had offered to resign in the immediate aftermath of the fires, but had been told by Tsipras to stay until the end of the emergency.
He and other officials had insisted that with winds blowing at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour, there was little time to mount an effective evacuation.
The government has also said that decades of illegal construction in the area had blocked escape roads to the coast.
The environment ministry has now pledged to tear down illegal buildings - permitted by successive administrations to remain standing in return for fines and possible votes - in Mati and other fire-endangered areas 
Finnish grocery store holds a SLEEPOVER for people to cool-off in red-hot European heatwave as Portugal and Spain swelter again in near-record temperatures
A supermarket chain in Finland invited 100 customers to spend the night at its air-conditioned store in Helsinki as Europe suffers a record-breaking heatwave.
K-Supermarket said on Facebook that patrons needing to cool down could stay overnight at the store also get supper and breakfast on request. 
Apartments and homes in the Nordic country are equipped to deal with the extreme cold and damp, but few have air conditioning.
People in Helsinki, Finland took├é K-Supermarket up on their offer to allow customers to sleep in the aisles of their store which was furnished with cool refrigerators and air conditioning
People in Helsinki, Finland took K-Supermarket up on their offer to allow customers to sleep in the aisles of their store which was furnished with cool refrigerators and air conditioning
Two women set up their sleeping arrangement near the vegetable racks after the grocer in Helsinki opened up its doors to over 100 customers to sleep inside
Two women set up their sleeping arrangement near the vegetable racks after the grocer in Helsinki opened up its doors to over 100 customers to sleep inside
K-Supermarket manager Marika Lindfors said the idea came from joking customers: 'We always try to respond to client feedback, so why not here, too?'
K-Supermarket manager Marika Lindfors said the idea came from joking customers: 'We always try to respond to client feedback, so why not here, too?'
Operations manager Marika Lindfors said the idea came from customers who 'told me half-jokingly that it'd be a great thing to be able to sleep at a cool supermarket.' 
'We always try to respond to client feedback, so why not here, too?' Lindfors added. 
Temperatures across Europe remain high as the heatwave continues into this week, with many still hoping for some respite after weeks of non-stop sunshine.
The extreme weather, caused by an influx of hot air from Africa, is also carrying loads of dust from the Sahara Desert across some parts of the continent. 
Temperatures were expected to peak in southern France on Monday and further north on Tuesday. On Saturday, they hit their highest levels since a deadly 2003 heatwave killed thousands of mainly elderly people. 
Several cities imposed traffic restrictions and cut speed limits to try to reduce ozone pollution aggravated by the heat, with Paris also offering free parking and cheaper daily metro and bus passes to discourage driving.
The heat wave could be among the 'top three' on record for France, the national weather service said. The current forecast  is for a cooler end to the week with temperatures in the mid-20s.  
Another hot day: Temperatures at midday in Europe on Monday 
Another hot day: Temperatures at midday in Europe on Monday 
A man cools off in a fountain in front of the Berlin Cathedral as the heatwave in Europe continues
A man cools off in a fountain in front of the Berlin Cathedral as the heatwave in Europe continues
People crowd the beach in Rostock, northern Germany, on Saturday as the heatwave in Europe continues 
People crowd the beach in Rostock, northern Germany, on Saturday as the heatwave in Europe continues 
People at a beach on the shores of lake Silbersee in western Germany as the heatwave over central Europe continues 
People at a beach on the shores of lake Silbersee in western Germany as the heatwave over central Europe continues 
In Spain, the death toll rose to five after two homeless men succumbed to heat stroke in northeastern Taragona, officials said.
Firefighters helped by calmer winds were meanwhile gaining control of a wildfire in the southwestern province of Huelva, just across the border from the Algarve in southern Portugal where a major blaze was still burning in Monchique.
Temperatures remained high, especially in the southeast where they were forecast to hit 40-42 C.
There has been little relief at night.
At midnight the town of Zorita in the southwest recorded a temperature of 35.1 C, according to Spain's national weather office, the highest temperature in the country at that time.  
Visitors enjoy a ride at the open-air aquapark 'Dreamland' in Minsk, Belarus, as the hot weather continues in Europe
Visitors enjoy a ride at the open-air aquapark 'Dreamland' in Minsk, Belarus, as the hot weather continues in Europe
Fire fighters tackle forest fires near Straelen, western Germany on Saturday 
Fire fighters tackle forest fires near Straelen, western Germany on Saturday 
Germany expects a fresh spike mid-week to around 39 C before temperatures ease, with official figures showing the average for April-July running 3.6 degrees higher than the 1961-1990 reference period.
Farmers continued to plead for help, with the president of Germany's farmers' association, Joachim Rukwied, saying a billion euros in government aid may be necessary as crop failure rates hit 70 percent in some areas.
More than a million children returned to school on Monday in three German states - Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Hesse - but some were allowed to go home earlier than planned due to the heatwave.  
The heatwave has hit the low-lying Netherlands hard, to the point where it has become a threat to its world famous system of dams and canals designed to keep the sea at bay.
But river levels have fallen so low that the Rijkswaterstaat, which manages the national water system, has been opening barrages inland to flush out sea water seeping into coastal waterways.

Blazes continues to rage in Portugal as wildfire destroys homes
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