Portugal asks for EU help on forest fires

Water-bombing planes funded by the EU have arrived in Portugal

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Portugal has said it is seeking European Union help to to tackle raging forest fires, in one of the worst summers for such blazes in years.

Dozens of fires are raging in the centre and north of the country and 1,700 firefighters have been deployed.

Officials say one man died while trying to protect his farm from one of the largest blazes, at Ourem.

Portugal is asking for four water-dumping aircraft, after a helicopter being used in the operations crashed.

Both the pilot and co-pilot are said to have escaped with minor injuries.

The country has been suffering from a heatwave, adding to a prolonged drought, which have created ideal wildfire conditions.

The heavily-forested north of the country is currently suffering the most, says the BBC's Alison Roberts in Lisbon, but the tourist destinations of the Algarve and the island of Madeira were also hit earlier in the summer.

Neighbouring Spain has also been battling fires this year, with some 153,000 hectares (378,000 acres) of land scorched since January.

Over the weekend, thousands of people fled homes along the southern Costa del Sol, one of Spain's most popular holiday destinations and home to a large British expatriate community.

Hundreds of firefighters, backed up by emergency military personnel and 31 planes and helicopters, battled a huge blaze near Marbella.

One man was found dead at Las Blanquillas, near Ojen, on Friday.

Spanish officials said the blaze was largely under control by Sunday, allowing the evacuees to return home.

The authorities say the cause of the Spanish fires will be investigated, and are not ruling out that they could have been started deliberately.

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