Portugal counts on drones to bolster defences against wildfires during pandemic
By Catarina Demony
LISBON, May 11 (Reuters) - Portugal will use long-range drones and other surveillance means to reinforce the monitoring of summer wildfires, officials said on Monday, responding to concerns over the country's readiness to tackle forest blazes during the coronavirus pandemic.
European Union data shows Portugal is one of the bloc's worst-hit countries by fires every year. One of the root causes of its frequent wildfires is that parts of the country's interior are deserted as people have left to live in cities or abroad, and the job of clearing trees and bushes is ignored, creating a fire risk.
In June last year major wildfires in central Portugal burned about 8,500 hectares, destroying houses and forcing authorities to evacuate villagers, who said there were not enough firefighters and resources to combat the flames.
A survey by services platform Fixando of 600 land clearing providers showed 77% experienced a drop in demand due to the coronavirus and the government's lockdown measures. (Reporting by Catarina Demony, editing by Andrei Khalip and Susan Fenton)