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Portugal Reports More Than 1,000 Heat-Related Deaths

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Portugal reports more than 1,000 fatalities related to the current heatwave, and the health minister warned on Tuesday that the nation must be prepared to face the impacts of climate change as temperatures continue to rise.

"Portugal is among the regions of the world which could potentially be (more) susceptible to extreme temperatures," Graca Freitas, the head of the DGS, said in an interview with Reuters. 

"We must be more and more prepared for the coming months that are hot."

The temperature across drought-hit Portugal exceeded forty degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) last week. 

While they've dropped in the last few days, Freitas stated that they were still at a higher level than usual at this point of the year.

DGS earlier reported 238 extra deaths due to the heat wave that lasted from July 7-13; however, Freitas confirmed that the number of deaths has now risen to 1,063 until July 18.

The persistent drought and poor management of forests have been blamed for several wildfires that have swept across Portugal. 

Firefighters are also fighting blazes elsewhere in southern European countries, including Spain.

Carlos Antunes, a researcher at Lisbon University's Faculty of Sciences, told in an interview that data revealed that the people most likely to die as a result of heat waves were the elderly.

He said the number of deaths in the future will depend, among other things, on the preventive measures people adopt to protect themselves, how care homes tend to their residents and the adaptation of infrastructures.

"With the changing climate, it is anticipated that the increase in mortality will increase, so we need to implement measures at the general health level to minimize the negative impact," Antunes said.