Portugal reports more than 1,000 heat-related deaths

(EurActiv, 20 Jul 2022) Portugal has reported more than 1,000 deaths due to the current heat wave, with the health chief warning on Tuesday (19 July) that the country must gear up to cope with the effects of climate change as temperatures continue to rise.

“Portugal … is among one of the areas of the globe that could be (more) affected by extreme heat,” Graça Freitas, head of health authority DGS, told Reuters. “We have to be more and more prepared for periods of high temperatures.”

Temperatures across drought-stricken Portugal surpassed 40 degrees Celsius last week. Although they have dropped in the last few days, Freitas said they remained above normal levels for this time of the year.

DGS previously reported 238 excess deaths due to the heat wave from July 7 to 13, but Freitas said the number of fatalities has now increased to 1,063 for the period up to July 18.

High temperatures, the ongoing drought and poor forest management have been blamed for several wildfires sweeping across Portugal. Firefighters also are combating blazes in other southern European nations, including in Spain.

Carlos Antunes, a researcher at Lisbon University’s faculty of sciences, said in an interview that the data showed those most likely to die due to heat waves were elderly people.