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Europe heatwave: Students forced to flee Portugal wildfire

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    1 day ago

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A group of British students have told how they had to flee the wildfires in Portugal when they woke up to flames outside their villa window.

Dozens of fires are burning across Europe as temperatures surge above 40C.

The six University of Oxford graduates thought they had escaped the worst of the fires but had to rush to safety in the early hours of Thursday.

“I was kind of running for my life with flames following the cars as we were driving out,” said Millie Farley.

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Millie, along with her pals Anna Jones, Louisa Webb, Olivia Hilton, Guy Appleby and Cameron Helsby, have been in Portugal for a week to celebrate the end of their degrees.

The group of 22-year-olds told Radio 1 Newsbeat smoke from a big fire in the exclusive Quinta do Lago neighbourhood nearby caused them to leave their villa in the Algarve for a few hours on Wednesday.

“This bigger fire was reported to be 80% contained on local news which is why we returned to the villa,” said Anna, who is from Newcastle.

Students in Portugal

Image source, Anna Jones

Luckily for the group, Louisa set an alarm for the early hours of Thursday and spotted a fire about 200m from their villa.

And they were forced to flee 20 minutes later when Millie said she “pulled the curtains back [and] could see flames licking the window of our villa”.

“We were running around the villa kind of trying to wake everybody up, trying to get everybody in the car,” she told BBC Breakfast.

The students managed to escape safely to a place where they had gathered the day before and could wait for the villa manager.

Fire near villa

Image source, Anna Jones

Fire near villa

Image source, Millie Farley

And Guy said they had all made sure they had thanked Louisa for setting an alarm.

“Because otherwise if we if we’d waited 20 minutes, half an hour later it would have been catastrophic,” he said.

The students say they saw firefighters put the blaze out quickly which was a “really big relief” and have since moved to a nearby town.

Residents and holidaymakers have fled from wildfires in France, Portugal and Spain in the past few days.

Health officials in Portugal recorded 238 deaths more than normal since 7 July which they attributed to the very hot and very dry conditions.

More than 30 fires were active in Portugal on Friday morning, including one in a forest at Pombal in the central region of Leiria, which has lasted a week.

More than 300 sq km have been torched this year, a bigger area than in all of 2021.

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