Portuguese radio says 25 people killed in forest fires

A man on the balcony of a house looks up at a forest fire raging on a hillside above the village of Avelar central Portugal before sunrise Sunday
Wild forest fire kills 57, injures dozens in Portugal (PHOTOS)
Author

19 June, 2017

Raging forest fires in Portugal have killed at least 62 people, most of whom burnt to death in their cars, the government said Sunday, in one of the worst such disasters in recent history.

The government declared three days of mourning and sent two army battalions to help the emergency services.

The blaze on Saturday hit the mountainous area of Pedrogao Grande, 200 km southeast of Lisbon, amid an intense heat wave and strong winds that fanned the fire later in the day. Such dry lightning storms occur in extremely hot dry conditions when rain evaporates before reaching the ground.

The death toll from the fires is now at 57 but the number is expected to rise as over 10 people fight for their lives at local hospitals. However, he added that "there's no point in feeling joyful for that, because surely we will find more victims as we progres". There has been rainfall elsewhere but there was no rain there, and this is a heavily-forested area.

More than 600 firefighters were still battling the flames on Sunday.

A forest fire incident in Portugal has claimed at least 57 lives so far, media reports said.

Avelar resident Isabel Brandao blamed it on the lack of rain.

The municipality's Mayor, Valdemar Alves, said there were areas "completely surrounded" by the wildfire and that there were no enough firefighters to extinguish the fire. "But I've never seen anything like this".

Some 60 forest fires broke out as temperatures passed 40C in several regions. "I am shocked with this death toll". A young man shared a bottle of water with a distraught woman as she stumbled down the road.

Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes said 30 people were founded dead inside inside cars, and another 17 next to the vehicles on one road leading to the IC8 motorway.

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It has been reported that some people lost their lives while being trapped in cars as the fire swept over the road.

Public broadcaster RTP said there were about 20 injured, including six firefighters. "This tragedy also happened because of curiosity", he said.

There was no immediate identification of the victims.

Four firefighters and a child were described as "seriously hurt".

France is sending three planes, while Spain has sent several firefighting aircraft.

Pope Francis called on worshippers in Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican to pray for those affected by the "devastating fire" in Portugal.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted that he is "overwhelmed by the tragedy at Pedrogao Grande".

President Marcelo Rebelo went to the Leiria region to meet families of the victims, "sharing their pain in the name of all the Portuguese people", he said.

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

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