Portugal struggles to rise from the ashes of its deadliest fire

phys.org | 9/14/2017 | Staff
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Joaquim Godinho and his wife Edite watch with blank faces and heavy hearts as a bulldozer demolishes the charred remains of their home of nearly 30 years.

"This house represented a lifetime of work, of struggling day and night," Joaquim Godinho, who built the house himself, said.

Fire - Portugal - History - Region - Pedrogao

After the deadliest fire in Portugal's history devastated the central region of Pedrogao Grande, residents are now confronted with the massive task of starting over.

When the fire broke out on June 17, speeding down the hill that overlooks the village of Vale da Nogueira, 54-year-old Godinho tried in vain to save his property.

Truck - Driver - Burns - Fire - Hands

"It was impossible, I almost stayed there," the unemployed truck driver said, showing burns from the fire on his hands and face.

"We must start all over, move forward... but it's very difficult. We lost everything," said Edite, 53, who was in charge of the couple's modest family farm.

Firefighters - Days - Blaze - Hectares - Acres

More than 1,200 firefighters worked over five days to extinguish the blaze, which burned more than 50,000 hectares (123,500 acres) and caused damage worth about 200 million euros ($238 million). The flames killed 64 people and injured 250.

A total of 460 houses in the region were damaged by the fire, including 84 that were gutted beyond repair.

'Roof - Heads

'Roof over our heads'

The ravaged landscape surrounding Vale da Nogueira has changed little since the fire, but fern and eucalyptus shoots have added a touch of green to the grey hills, which bristle with burnt trees.

Air - Buzz - Chainsaws - Rumble - Trucks

The air is filled with the buzz of chainsaws and rumble of trucks as locals rush to sell the blackened wood before it loses all value.

But despite a wave of solidarity that caused the Portuguese to donate around 10 million euros to the cause, rebuilding projects—which remain volunteer-driven—are few.

Godinhos - Son

The Godinhos, along with their 24-year-old son, will be among the first to move into one of...
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