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Posted by portugalpress on August 09, 2018

With over 1,400 firefighters still working round-the-clock in Monchique and neighbouring boroughs, prime minister António Costa has managed to ignite a very different kind of fire of his own: a blaze of national fury.

The reason? After releasing images of himself “working hard even during his holidays” in his office, watching images of the Algarve inferno and ‘coordinating strategies over the phone’, he told a meeting of Civil Protection in Carnaxide (roughly 167 kms from the fires) that Monchique was the “exception that confirmed the rule of success of the operation throughout these (last few) days”.

The “exception” of the fire of Monchique - which hasn’t been extinguished “like 25 other large fires” that started during the heatwave - happened “for specific reasons” which have to do with the landscape, the climate, the kind of forest in the area “and other factors that at the end can be determined”, he continued.

Says Expresso, Costa stressed the fact that “after five days of fire, there is happily no human life to mourn, a reduced number of injured and an uncertain number of constructions affected, means that the execution of the plan and its priorities have been followed”, and that the government has full confidence in the work of Civil Protection.

It was - if not by the nation’s press - seen as speech from another planet: a space devoid of empathy.

“Autistic”, “disgusting”, “resign!” were just some of the comments that raged across social media.

In a south that has pulled out all the stops to show this government how people feel about the insistence to start drilling for oil next month off the pristine waters of Costa Vicentina, the message was clear:

“Next year there are elections in Portugal and Europe. Let’s vote in zeros for the Left that laughs at us and defends the economic interests of big business”!

The post, from one of the stalwarts of the anti-oil fight Ana Carla Conceição, has been shared dozens of times.

“Remember we are at the frontline of this fight,” she rails. “Alone and abandoned by men in suits with disgusting attitudes who smile at the show.”

National tabloid Correio da Manhã has given Costa its “thumbs down” of the day, saying “he reappeared (presumably from his holidays) to talk about the fires in the worst possible way.

“He used them to politicise a dramatic situation that has affected populations and left the whole country in suspense.”

“It’s very sad to see a member of government act with such irresponsibility,” said the paper’s invited ‘leader writer’, opposition MP Luís Campos Ferreira, accusing Costa of being superficial.

“Roll down your sleeves and get to work!” Campos Ferreira concluded, though this is almost certainly not the course of action that will follow.

For now, CM’s latest poll on how the country feels about the way the fires are being battled shows that only 17% thinks authorities are doing a good job.

Civil Protection’s national command, meantime, has said today in Monchique, Silves and along the 100 km perimeter of this disaster, things are “much calmer” but there are certain to be further reignitions as the north wind is bringing with it gusts of up to 50km/h.

The “Monchique blaze” is far from over. People’s fury has barely begun.