Madeira is on fire

Madeira is on fire
Three people have died as wildfires raged in the city of Funchal, on the Portuguese island of Madeira, reports the BBC.

All three are said to have been elderly people whose homes caught fire. A thousand people have evacuated from homes and hotels.

Fires have also been blazing on the mainland and there are reports of a fourth death in central Portugal.

According to the Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manhã, there are at least 109 fires raging at the moment.

The government has triggered the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, which enables other European states to help.

Italy has already released a Canadair aircraft to join the effort.

Several arrests have been made of people suspected of illegally starting fires.

Forest fires first took hold in the Portuguese mainland on Friday and on the island of Madeira, off the north-west African coast, on Monday, following weeks of dry weather and temperatures above 35C.

On Tuesday the flames encroached on Funchal, home to some 112,000 permanent residents and capital of an island that attracts more than a million tourists per year.

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