Portugal's Madeira hit by forest fires

Firefighters have been despatched from the Portuguese mainland to help

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Hundreds of Portuguese firefighters are battling forest fires raging in areas popular with tourists - the Algarve and the island of Madeira.

Fires in Camacha and Santa Cruz on Madeira are threatening homes, but there are no reports of casualties.

Dozens of people have abandoned their homes since fires began spreading in parts of Madeira on Wednesday.

The Tavira district is worst affected in the Algarve. Spain has sent a Canadair water-bombing plane to help.

High winds are said to be hampering efforts to contain the blazes. Portugal has been suffering from a heatwave, adding to a prolonged drought.

The area burnt in the Algarve is reported to be much bigger than the area hit by fire last year.

But a tour operator on Madeira told the BBC on Friday that hotels, golf courses, hiking routes and other leisure facilities were unaffected and open to tourists.

On Wednesday, TV images showed flames several storeys high right on the edge of Madeira's main town, Funchal. The area is now out of danger.

Two houses were destroyed and at least 25 more damaged in the town, according to officials quoted by the Associated Press.

At least 75 firefighters have been despatched from the Portuguese mainland to help the overstretched fire services.

On the Spanish island of Tenerife, officials say they have now contained forest fires that have been burning since Sunday.

Aircraft have been dropping water and people have been evacuated from Vilaflor, a town of about 1,800 people on the south side of the island.

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