Central Portugal forest fires: 61 Dead, PM Calls Disaster a 'Tragedy'

Pauline Gross
June 20, 2017

The government has declared Sunday through Tuesday national days of mourning for the victims of a fire "which has caused an irreparable loss of human life". He said that "it was not possible to do more than what has been done" in prevention and responding to the fire.

Gomes said eight firefighters were among the injured - four in serious condition.

This is not the first time a wildfire caused havoc in the country.

"In Portugal, the main factor in the scale of wildfires is the unbroken stretches of forest", said Prof.

The blaze is believed to have been started by lightning hitting a tree.

Close to 100 forest fires continued to rage across Portugal Sunday night, with over 2,000 firefighters working to bring them under control. In the small village of Atalaia Fundeira, a big cloud of smoke billowed from a scrub of land as villagers including 76-year-old Palmira Coelho rushed out with buckets of water and a tractor arrived with a tank of water and hose.

Firefighters were also continuing a grim search for bodies, with Costa warning on Sunday that the death toll could still rise. There are concerns strong winds could help spread the blaze further.

At their height, 156 forest fires drew almost 1,700 firefighters to try to contain them.

The loss in terms of property and human life has been enormous and can not be compared to any of the forest fires in the recent times.

Starling told The Associated Press on Monday that he had to speed around trees that had fallen on the road and had to go off the road.

The forest fires happened amid severe heatwave with temperatures reaching 40 °C in some areas of the country over the past days.

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"I managed to contact a relative who got her out".

"This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we can not remember a tragedy of these proportions", said Valdemar Alves, mayor of Pedrogao Grande. "I am complete stunned by the number of deaths".

Several villages here hit and people were evacuated.

Several houses were destroyed by the flames. Numerous survivors are blaming local authorities, claiming that they were left to fight the flames alone for hours.

Mr Gomes said at least 30 of those killed were in vehicles engulfed by flames on a road between the towns of Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera.

More than 50 people were injured, five critically, including one child and four firefighters.

Mr Costa tweeted his "deepest regret for the victims.and a word of encouragement and strength for all who help combat this scourge". Portugal established a special diplomatic channel for embassies to receive information on foreign citizens who "may be affected".

France has offered three firefighting planes to fight the situation.

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

"I express my closeness to the beloved people of Portugal following the devastating fire", Francis said.

Other reports by GizPress

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