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Portuguese firefighters tackle major wildfire on the south coast

A firefighter works on an active fire on a hillside outside the village of Monchique, in southern Portugal's Algarve region Picture by Javier Fergo/AP
By Associated Press Reporter

Emergency services in Portugal say they are still fighting a major wildfire on the south coast that threatened to engulf a hillside town overnight.

The Civil Protection Agency said 44 people required medical assistance as the blaze passed by the outskirts of Monchique, 155 miles south of Lisbon. A 72-year-old woman was seriously hurt.

More than 1,000 firefighters with 327 vehicles and seven aircraft were battling the blaze.

The wind-driven fire has raced across tinder-dry pine and eucalyptus forest in a largely inaccessible hill range behind the famous beaches of Portugal's Algarve vacation region.

Plumes of black smoke have blown across beaches popular with European tourists.

Firefighters expect cooler temperatures that have been forecast to help them bring the fire under control.

The Algarve is not expected to exceed 30C (86F), while Lisbon is expecting 33C (91F).

Parts of the south and northeast of the country remained at "extreme risk" of wildfires, however, according to the national weather agency's forecast.

The falling temperatures helped create "much more favourable" conditions for firefighters tackling the Monchique blaze, local fire chief Abel Gomes told a news conference.

Overnight, dozens of homes and a hotel were evacuated around the town of about 2,000 people which is known for its spa.

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