More than 60 killed by raging forest fires in Portugal

Pauline Gross
June 19, 2017

"There are no words for that".

A huge forest fire raging since Saturday in central Portugal has killed at least 62 people, the government said on Sunday, in what is possibly the deadliest-ever forest blaze in the Atlantic coastal country, used to the woods burning nearly every summer.

Greece experienced its deadliest fires a decade ago.

The government set up centers near the scene to help people who lost their homes and some nearby schools will remain closed for now, Costa said in Pedrogao Grande on Sunday in comments broadcast by RTP.

The fatalities occurred in the Pedrogao Grande area, about 150 kilometres northeast of Lisbon, where about 600 firefighters have been trying to put out the fires since Saturday, Gomes said.

He said the death toll was lowered from the previously reported 62 victims because one person had been counted twice.

Fires on the tourist island of Madeira in August killed three people, while across 2016 around 40 homes were destroyed and 5,400 hectares of land burned.

No information was immediately given on how the others were killed.

RTP said there are at least another 20 people injured, including six firefighters.

The fires began on Saturday during an intense heatwave and rainless thunderstorms, with temperatures of more than 40°C in some areas.

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It is not yet known what caused the fire, however Mr Costa said thunderstorms could have been one possible cause. This is described as one of the worst wild fire tragedies of recent years.

The European Union responded to a call for assistance by Portuguese authorities.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker sent a letter to Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, expressing "profound sadness" for the fire in Pedrogao Grande and offering "most felt solidarity".

"So what we must do now is to calmly provide all the resources to fight the fires".

Portugal's civil protection agency, which coordinates firefighting efforts, issued a warning of the increased risk for forest fires in Friday.

He added "I am so thankful to the firefighters and other professions who are giving their all for the security of each of us by fighting the fires".

Francis visited the Portuguese shrine of Fatima last month.

Firefighters of the Portuguese National Republican Guard work to stop a forest fire from reaching the village of Avelar, central Portugal, at sunrise Sunday, June 18 2017.

France is sending three planes, while Spain has sent several firefighting aircraft. "Deepest condolences to the Portugese people on this tragedy", Prime Minister Modi tweeted. He said at least 30 people died inside their cars as they tried to flee between the towns of Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera.

Local resident Isabel Brandao said that she had feared for her life.

Other reports by GizPress

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