Published: Sun, June 18, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Portugal declares three days of mourning over deadly forest blaze

Portugal declares three days of mourning over deadly forest blaze

"Unfortunately, this seems to be the greatest tragedy we have seen in recent years in terms of forest fires", said Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

Almost 60 other people were injured, including four firefighters.

As Alison Roberts reports from Lisbon for our Newscast unit, officials believe a lightning strike is likely to blame for the Pedrogão Grande fire, and they have ruled out a criminal cause.

Temperatures in the area have hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in recent days. In addition, a moment of silence for the victims of the blaze is expected at the Confed Cup football match between Portugal and Mexico. Most of those killed burned to death in their cars, the government said on June 18, after the flames swept over the road faster than they could escape.

Resident Isabel Brandao told The Associated Press that she had feared for her life when she saw the blaze. "I never thought it would come to this side", she said Sunday.

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"The smoke cloud is very low, which does not allow helicopters and fire planes to work efficiently. but we're doing everything possible and impossible to put out this fire", Gomes said, adding that no villages were now at risk.

A burnt auto on a road after a wildfire in Pedrogao, in central Portugal. "We were afraid the fire would reach us".

Firefighting aircraft were being sent from France and Spain, the EU's humanitarian aid commissioner Christos Stylianides said.

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

Portuguese authorities say that they are still investigating the cause of the fire.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed grief over the Portugal forest fire tragedy in which 62 people lost their lives.

Authorities said the the conditions may have played a part.

"There are people who arrived saying they didn't want to die in their homes, which were surrounded by flames", Ansiao resident Ricardo Tristao told reporters.

On Sunday, Pope Francis led thousands of people in silent prayer for the victims of what he called the "devastating fire", while the Portuguese football team offered its "deepest sympathies to the families, friends and loved ones of the victims of the fires".

He earlier said 30 bodies were found inside cars, with another 17 next to the vehicles, on one road leading on to the IC8 motorway.

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