Flames spread close to homes around Madeira’s capital, Funchal, encroaching on the suburbs and casting a smoke plume over the city centre
An elderly woman and at least two others have been killed in forest fires sweeping across Portugal.
A thousand people have been evacuated from their homes and hotels as wildfires hit the holiday hotspot of Funchal in Madeira and at least two are seriously hurt.
Local reports confirm the woman died when her home caught fire near the centre of the city.
A major blaze on the popular holiday island has destroyed at least six homes, a luxury five-star hotel and forced the evacuation of a thousand people.
Flames spread close to homes around Funchal, encroaching on the suburbs and casting a smoke plume over the city centre.
Eight firefighters in Madeira required medical treatment after inhaling smoke as high winds fuelled the blaze on the island off north-west Africa.
Around 3,000 firefighters are trying to extinguish more than 500 forest fires across Portugal, using 23 water-dumping aircraft.
The mainland’s northern area has been worst hit, where the region’s pine and eucalyptus forests are tinder-dry after a long spell without rain.
Seven fires in the north have been classified as major blazes that are out of control.
In the area around Viseu, which is 180 miles north of Lisbon, a wildfire forced the closure of a major motorway.
Dramatic footage has emerged of the disaster, showing the sky still completely engulfed in thick, grey smoke and orange remnants of the forest blaze.
A local woman caught up in the fire is seen being helped by emergency services as firefighters try desperately to put out the flames and hundreds flee their homes.
Homeowners are seen desperately trying to quench fires with hosepipes as burning embers were swept along by strong winds.
One holidaymaker, who shared a video on Facebook, said: “The worst [is] over now. On vacation but hoping for rain to stop this.”
She wrote overnight: “Not wanting to jinx us but it looks like the worst is over in Funchal centre. Bad air, hard to breath but no fire.”
In nearby Agueda, roads were closed and power lines were cut by wildfires.
British visitors to the island have also spoken out about the carnage on social media.
Jackie Galbraith, vice principal at Ayrshire College in Scotalnd, was stranded at Funchal Airport for 32 hours.
She wrote on Twitter: “Finally back in Glasgow after spending 32 hours in Funchal Airport. Madeira was beautiful but I won’t be back – wouldn’t take the chance.”
The airport was inundated with holidaymakers desperate to get home as scores of flights were delayed and tourists were forced to sleep on the floor.
A University of Manchester student tweeted about being unable to leave Funchal Airport because of the forest fires, 30 hours after leaving Manchester Airport.
Amy Knowles wrote: “Still can’t get over the fact that I’m in Spain and we have to fly to Madeira again today in the hope that it’s safe to land.
“Too windy to land in Madeira so we just landed 500km away in Tenerife. The holiday is off to a great start.”
Sammy Cave, from Kent, tweeted: “My niece, nephew and brother-in-law are evacuating their homes to run from the fires in Madeira. I pray they’ll be safe.”
Passengers flying with Jet2.com and easyJet were booked on flights back to Edinburgh and Glasgow from Madeira.
Holidaymakers claims that neither airline offered them any information and left them at the airport without accommodation, food or water for 12 hours despite temperatures reaching more than 29C.
EasyJet customer Anthony Griffiths, 76, had been due to fly out from the Portuguese island’s Funchal airport, just before 8pm on Monday.
But instead the pensioner and his wife Anne were told their flight was grounded and that the next possible flight back home to Edinburgh is on Friday.
Local journalist Joao Oliveira posted a timelapse video showing the gradual development of the fire as it slowly swept over the island.
“More people were evacuated in Funchal than in all the fires in continental Portugal,” he said.
He added that explosions and fire in the Funchal centre originated in a warehouse while popular tourist haunt The Hotel Choupana Hills was totally consumed by flames.
Regional President Miguel Albuquerque said one person had suffered serious burns and dozens of others had needed treatment for the effects of smoke.
More than 200 patients were evacuated from a small hospital as a precaution.
At least 27 homes have been destroyed and local businesses have lost thousands of pounds as their buildings burned down.
Wildfires have been affecting the Portuguese mainland in recent days with seven major fires burning out of control by last night.
The latest devastation comes just six years after floods and mudslides killed 42 people and injured more than 100 when extreme weather swept through Madeira.
Funchal was one of the worst affected areas after strong winds and heavy rain battered the city, causing landslides and muddy torrents which washed away bridges, roads and buildings.
It is the homeland of Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and a statue was erected in his honour on the island in 2014.
Fires could be clearly seen lining the hills behind the famous statue.
Cristiano, 31, returned to Madeira to pose in front of the bronze effigy with his family by his side when it was unveiled.
He recently opened a lavish, football-themed hotel on the island, with standard guest rooms beginning at £184 per night.
His mum Dolores Aveiro still lives on his native island.
Original source: The Mirror