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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Fires in Portugal. A young man with a sheep on his shoulders is a symbol of the inhabitants’ struggle with the element

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The Spanish daily “El Pais” described the story of a man who, together with his neighbors and family, helped save people and animals during fires in the Portuguese village of Boa Vista. Paulo Cunha photographed Joao Paulo Ruivo carrying a sheep on his shoulders. The photo has become a symbol of the inhabitants’ struggle with the element.

Portuguese firefighters are fighting huge fires that have been consuming the country for over a week due to high temperatures (up to 47 degrees Celsius). Portugal has mobilized more than two thousand firefighters to put out fires, but the homes of thousands of people are still at risk.

“We were told to run, we left many things behind”

Among the affected areas was the village of Boa Vista, in the Leiria district in the central part of the country. It is here that a young man was photographed, later identified as Joao Paulo Ruivo.

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A 22-year-old carrying a wounded sheep on his shoulders was noticed by photographer Paulo Cunha, working for the Efe agency. The photo, often shared on social media, has been described as a symbol of the Portuguese fight against fires.

Joao Paulo Ruivo rescuing a sheep during a fire in Boa Vista, PortugalPAP / EPA / PAULO CUNHA

Ruivo has so far avoided contact with the media, but journalists from the Spanish “El Pais” managed to talk to him. The diary described that the man had been working in his uncle Antonio’s carpentry shop for three years. “Ruivo did not think about fear, but about solidarity,” writes El Pais.

– Back then, I was focused on helping others. I don’t want to be the main face of these events. It is not appropriate to be famous for this reason, firefighters should be famous – admitted Ruivo 48 hours after the incident.

– People think I want this fame and I don’t want it, it’s not for me. We did a job with my colleagues that the firefighters could not do because they could not get everywhere – he explained.

Ruivo noted that saving the animals was not easy. “They were behind the fence, nervous, couldn’t see well,” he described. The men managed to save a herd of 40 goats and 20 sheep. They all found refuge in a carpentry workshop. “At Boa Vista, we reacted as a family,” the 22-year-old concluded.

Portugal on fire. “All it takes is a breath of air, suddenly it sparkles, and the fire breaks out again”

“The firemen have been somewhere, but they can’t be everywhere,” admitted Antonio Ruivo, Joao Paulo’s uncle. He also took part in the action and – like his relative – does not feel like a hero. “When you do it, it’s not out of pride, you just want to help,” he explained.

Main photo source: PAULO CUNHA / PAP / EPA

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