FUNCHAL, Portugal, Aug. 10 (UPI) — At least three people have died in wildfires that reached Funchal, the capital of Portugal’s island of Madeira, as a thousand people have evacuated.
Portuguese police said a man has been arrested on suspicion of starting the fire. Three elderly people died in two separate house fires. Two others are seriously injured and another is missing.
Thousands of firefighters and dozens of aircraft have been deployed to battle blazes in Madeira and across mainland Portugal where fires have also been burning, Portugal’s National Civil Protection Service said. Several buildings in Madeira, including the five-star Choupana Hills hotel, have been destroyed.
Smoke has disrupted flights, stopping planes from leaving the Funchal airport. Firefighters said steep hills and dense woods have made it difficult to fight the flames. More than 300 people have been treated for minor burns or smoke inhalation.
Temperatures reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit have contributed to causing fires. More than 100 active fires were burning on Wednesday, with 11 being specifically dangerous.
Madeira’s government has told non-essential employees to avoid coming into Funchal. The island, off the northwest coast of Africa, is a popular tourist destination that attracts more than a million visitors each year. It has a permanent resident population of over 110,000.