Belfast restaurateur Michael Deane was among hundreds of holidaymakers forced to flee their Portuguese properties due to raging wildfires that have engulfed the country this week.
At least 120 people required medical treatment as a result of the disaster, which was caused by extreme temperatures of 43C.
The Michelin-starred chef has been holidaying in the Faro region of the Algarve with his wife, former broadcaster Kate Smith.
“Our apartment is very close to some fires,” he explained.
“We could see a lot of smoke and hear people screaming, ‘Out, out!’
“So we decided to leave.”
The couple fled to a hotel, not knowing if their apartment would still be there when they returned.
“A lot of people from Northern Ireland own property out here,” said Michael.
“It’s a great place with a beautiful golf course and great beaches.
“We’re fine now, but it’s very scary.
“Wednesday was a nightmare just watching people’s hopes and dreams burst into flames.
“This is a beautiful area and we have a lot of friends here so it was difficult to watch them.”
When the couple returned on Thursday, they were relieved to find the property intact – although covered in thick black ash and badly damaged by smoke.
“It’s going to be a cleanup,” he said.
“But things seem to have calmed down a bit.
“There is a lot of scorched earth around us. There are still helicopters in the air and many firefighters on the ground – but as far as we know it’s safe for now.”
Much of the country suffers from drought, turning vegetation into kindling that fuels the fires.
Evacuations have been ordered in many parts as emergency services struggle to contain the blaze.
A major highway was closed earlier this week and major festivals were moved to cooler locations.
Portugal’s prime minister has already warned things are likely to get worse if temperatures soar to 46C in places.
On Thursday night, Michael enjoyed enjoying a tranquil sunset with his wife as they struggled to comprehend the devastation that had unfolded around them in moments.
“It was horrific,” said Mr. Deane.
“We just watched the sun go down but who knows what tomorrow will bring. Luckily no one died.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/belfast-chef-michael-deane-forced-to-flee-algarve-apartment-as-wildfires-close-in-41841767.html Belfast chef Michael Deane has been forced to flee his home in the Algarve as wildfires approached