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Last Updated: Friday, 5 August 2005, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Portuguese fires 'could worsen'
Fire in Albergaria-dos Doze, 150 km north of Lisbon
Some people in remote villages were forced to leave their homes
Thousands of firefighters are tackling a new wave of forest fires that have been raging for two days as Portugal is gripped by a heatwave.

Portuguese interior minister Antonio Costa urged people in the centre and north of the country to remain vigilant and help prevent the fires spreading.

Speaking after visiting firefighters in the central town of Leiria, he warned that the situation could get worse.

Water shortages and temperatures above 40C are making the operation difficult.

Safety measures

About 3,000 firefighters, with help from hundreds of vehicles and 16 aircraft, have been struggling to bring about 17 fires across the country under control.

"We are facing very difficult moments which will probably last over the coming days, since weather conditions will remain adverse," Mr Costa told reporters.

Fire in Albergaria-dos Doze, 150 km north of Lisbon

"Instead of dramatising the risks we face over the coming days, we need to take steps to mobilise to confront them victoriously."

Some homes in remote villages were evacuated and one man, trapped by the flames, was badly burned near Ourem, 120 km (75 miles) north of Lisbon.

People in rural parts have been asked to clear an area of 50m around their homes as a safety precaution.

The worst of the fires were in Leiria and Aveiro to the north of Lisbon. Fires near Aveiro, on the coast, forced the closure of a 15km (nine-mile) stretch of the main Lisbon-Porto road.

Fires have destroyed 68,000 hectares of forest this year in Portugal, which faces its worst dry spell since the 1940s.

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