By Nichola Jones, IFRC

More than 300 volunteers and staff from the Portuguese Red Cross are providing first aid, psychological support and emergency supplies to victims of devastating forest fires sweeping parts of the country.

The blazes, which broke out in Central Portugal as temperatures soared this weekend, are believed to have claimed more than 60 lives as people tried to escape in cars from Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera. Dozens more have been injured and homes destroyed.

The Red Cross has 37 branches responding and has sent 73 ambulances to treat people and take them to hospital.  It has also been handing out smoke masks, helping to reunite separated families and has launched an emergency appeal.

Swathes north and western Europe is experiencing hot weather which is expected to continue in the coming days and weeks.  May saw monthly temperature records set in Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland, Norway, Germany and Austria.

Red Cross and Red Crescents are providing advice on how to keep cool and stay safe during the heatwave and emergency teams are ready to respond.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) disaster management coordinator in Europe, Ruben Romero, said:

“Our colleagues across Europe are preparing for temperatures to rise further – it is important that people know how to stay safe in extreme heat.  Vulnerable people like the elderly, children, asylum seekers and refugees staying in camps are among the most at risk from the weather and our volunteers are in those communities providing information and support.”

Temperatures reached as high as 40 degrees Celsius in Portugal while the mercury rose above 30 degrees Celsius in the UK this week. The British Red Cross, Netherlands Red Cross and Magen David Adom in Israel are among those to have prepared advice and information for the public on how to stay safe.


Story updated 21/06/2017