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Monday 20 August 2018

'The sky turned red' - Irish tourists tell of fleeing wildfires

Gordon, Bairbre, Rhys and Rebecca Englishby were staying close to where fires rage in the Algarve
Gordon, Bairbre, Rhys and Rebecca Englishby were staying close to where fires rage in the Algarve

An Irish family has told how they had to be urgently evacuated when "wildfires breaking out by themselves" left them stranded on the Algarve in Portugal.

Gordon Englishby, his wife Bairbre and their two children, Rebecca and Rhys, were on holiday when they had to flee from their hotel because of a forest fire on Sunday evening.

Since then, the "fire has divided into three directions", and is inching closer to their new hotel in Alvor, 30km away.

"Phone lines are down at the hotel in Monchique. Smoke clouds are now visible and there is a smell of smoke coming from the fires to our new hotel in Alvor," said Ms Englishby.

Flames

The family, who are from Co Cavan, has been in Portugal since last Thursday, and witnessed the flames inching close to their hotel on Sunday.

"On Sunday night, we were in Portimao with my family," said Mr Englishby.

"We got back by 10.45pm to our hotel. When we got as far as the hotel, we saw fire on the hillside overlooking our hotel."

Mr Englishby said he had noticed "a lot of activity with the emergency services and fire services" since last Thursday, but on Saturday he saw "quite a bit of smoke".

"All Saturday, we were told by the hotel management that there was nothing to be concerned about," he added.

"But while returning on Sunday we could see the fire. The sky was red, and people were gathered around on the road.

Flameson leap high above the trees on a hillside outside the village of Monchique, in southern Portugal's Algarve region on Sunday. Over 700 firefighters were battling the forest fire. Photo: Javier Fergo/AP
Flameson leap high above the trees on a hillside outside the village of Monchique, in southern Portugal's Algarve region on Sunday. Over 700 firefighters were battling the forest fire. Photo: Javier Fergo/AP

"We were fortunate that we got most of our belongings out of the room.

"But there were some families who couldn't get as far as the hotel that night. They were turned back at police checkpoints some kilometres away."

More than 1,150 firefighters battled flames in the Algarve on Monday, with winds fanning the blaze and forcing the evacuation of another village as temperatures reached a peak of nearly 47C.

Mr Englishby said that as they were being evacuated, they saw "the fire spreading very quickly and fires breaking out by themselves" along the coast.

"I was reasonable, but my children became afraid," he said.

"I thought it wouldn't be so bad, but obviously the wind changed direction and that brought in the flames."

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