Forest fires in Madeira, Portugal in 2011 (Photo: anagh, via Wikimedia Commons)
By Brigitte Leoni
Geneva - 20 June 2017, Robert Glasser, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction expressed his deep condolences to the families affected by the devastating fires in Portugal.
More than 60 fires broke out in a densely forested area near the small town of Pedrógão Grande, 200km north-east of Lisbon, killing more than 60 people, in what Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa described as the country’s “greatest human tragedy in living memory."
"Climate change is greatly increasing the likelihood of devastating fires, such as the one that struck Portugal over the weekend," warned Dr Glasser. He urged countries to integrate climate change risk in their fire prevention and response planning. "The fire highlights the urgency of global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases as quickly as possible" , continued Dr Glasser.
Last Friday, Portugal's National Authority for Public Safety issued wildfire alerts due to high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds when the Iberian peninsula was suffering from a severe heatwave, with temperatures exceeding 40C in some regions. Last year, Portugal was hit by a series of fires which devastated more than 100,000 hectares of the mainland.
A new study published yesterday in Nature Climate Change found that 30 percent of the world’s population is currently exposed to potentially deadly heat for 20 days per year or more.