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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 31 August 2013

EU Civil Protection Mechanism supports Portugal in fighting forest fires

The European Commission is supporting efforts to tackle a number of forest fires raging in northern and central Portugal. In response to a request for assistance by authorities in Lisbon, the European Commission's Emergency Response Centre (ERC) is facilitating the provision of additional aircraft to help extinguish the fires. Croatia is sending two fire-fighting aircraft through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. France will refuel the aircraft during their journey.

Currently there are eleven active forest fires in Portugal, six of them very serious. Five fire-fighters have been killed fighting them since the beginning of the month.

"I wish to express my condolences to the families of the firefighters who have lost their lives extinguishing fires this month," said Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.

"This week another brave man lost his life and a number of others were injured. The Commission's Emergency Response Centre is helping to coordinate European assistance to Portugal in the crucial hours and days ahead. I am grateful to our Croatian colleagues for this swift demonstration of solidarity.

On-going international bilateral assistance is being provided by France and Spain.

Background

Portugal is experiencing a particularly severe forest fires season with a daily average of some 300 blazes. Currently most affected is the district of Viseu, the municipalities of Tondela and Satão, and the Vila Real district, the municipality of Mondim de Basto.

On 29 August, France decided to provide an additional fire-fighting aircraft on the basis of a bilateral agreement that will complement the two French aircraft already operating in Portugal. In addition, three fire-fighting aircraft from Spain will be deployed to Portugal today.  

The Emergency Response Centre of the European Commission co-ordinates assistance on the European level in the event of disasters and in this way ensures that help is efficient, swift and effective.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates the cooperation in disaster response among 32 European states (EU Member States, FYROM, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). The participating countries pool resources which can be made available to disaster-stricken countries all over the world.

For more information

MEMO /13/663: Fighting forest fires in Europe: how it works

The European Commission's humanitarian aid and civil protection:

http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm

Commissioner Georgieva's website:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/georgieva/hot_topics/european_disaster_response_capacity_en.htm

Emergency Response Centre:

http://ec.europa.eu/echo/files/aid/countries/factsheets/thematic/ERC_en.pdf

Contacts :

Irina Novakova (+32 2 295 75 17)

David Sharrock (+32 2 296 89 09)


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