Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Forest fires kill at least 62 in central Portugal

Forest fires kill at least 62 in central Portugal

At least 61 people were killed by a forest fire in northern Portugal, with numerous victims dying on the road as they tried to flee, authorities said. Portugal's president says the country's pain "knows no end" as it mourns at least 61 people killed in the deadliest wildfire in memory.

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

Numerous victims died as they tried to flee the fire northeast of Lisbon in their cars.

Nearly 24 hours after the deaths Saturday night, fires were still churning across the forested hillsides of central Portugal.

Police chief Almeida Rodrigues blamed dry thunderstorms for the blaze, ruling out arson, and saying a tree had been struck by lightning.

High temperatures, extremely dry conditions and strong winds also hampered efforts to tackle the fire, he added.

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Authorities had previously said that 40 degree Celsius heat in recent days might have played a part in the inferno about 150km northeast of Lisbon. No information was immediately given on how the others were killed.

"We have been able to determine that the origin of the fire was caused by dry thunderstorms".

Almost 600 firefighters were deployed to fight the fire, which hit the country amid a severe heatwave over the weekend, with temperatures exceeding 40 deg C in several regions. He said authorities were anxious about strong winds that could help spreading the blaze further. Some 60 forest fires broke out across the country during the night, with around 1,700 firefighters battling to put them out.

A burned vehicle in the aftermath of the forest fire near Pedrogao Grande, in central Portugal.

Fires on the tourist island of Madeira in August killed three people, while over the course of 2016 around 40 homes were destroyed. According to her, the residents have spotted the fire since yesterday, but they imagined it was very far. "I never thought it would come to this side", she said Sunday.

Brandao said that "at 3:30 a.m.my mother-in-law woke me up quickly and we never went to sleep again". Behind me we can still can see cars completely burned-out on the roadside.

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Portuguese media reported several people were killed in their cars while attempting to escape the flames.

Gomes gave a grim description of the deaths to state broadcaster RTP.

Authorities said 54 people were injured, including four firefighters and an eight-year-old... Victims are still being identified.

Spain dispatched four water-bombing aircraft Sunday morning, and three firefighting planes arrived from France in the afternoon.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in a Twitter message: "Solidarity with Portugal, hit by bad fires. Deepest condolences to the Portugese people on this tragedy", Prime Minister Modi tweeted.

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