Published: Tue, June 20, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Death toll from forest fire rises, search and probe underway

Death toll from forest fire rises, search and probe underway

Roads away from the region were littered with the burnt-out vehicles of people who thought they could flee the flames.Many people watched their homes and all their possessions burn to ash.

The Portuguese radio station TSF, quoting the Ministry of the Interior, said that 25 people were killed in fires in the Pedrogao Grande area about 150 kilometers north-east of Lisbon.

More than 350 soldiers on Sunday joined the 700 firefighters who have been struggling to put out the blaze, schools in the area were closed until further notice and outdoor fires were banned.

The forest fire broke out on a road linking the municipalities of Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera, causing people to be trapped on a road surrounded by flames.

Gomes says 54 people were also injured in the fire, five of them seriously, including four firefighters and a minor. Four firefighters remain in critical condition.

"What we are seeing is a great tragedy", Costa said.

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Numerous families that were affected lost more than one relative, said Cdr Cundy, adding that his "heart went out to them". Suspicions have grown that flammable materials were used to clad the building and accelerated the spread of the fire.


Photo A section of forest in flames on Sunday evening during a wildfire near the village of Mega Fundeira, Portugal.

The winds were so strong, she said, that roofs of the houses were blown out.

Foreign Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: "Horrified to hear of tragic loss of life in Portugal fires".

Like more than half of the dead in Saturday's blaze, Daniel Starling jumped in his auto and raced away as the flames bore down.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa called it a "tragedy of a big dimension". Though the root cause is yet to be confirmed, the blistering heat-wave certainly saw the fires spread rapidly.

The idea, Ms Silva said, came while she tried to save her disabled mother. Most of those were burned to death.

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France sent three water-dropping planes Sunday to help fight the fires in Portugal's Leiria region, as part of European Union joint civil security operations. "The magnitude of this is on a completely different scale to what I have seen before".

Various local residents said they had been left to their own devices and had seen no firefighters for hours while their homes burned.

A French person is among the more than 60 people killed in wildfires sweeping through central Portugal.

"I am shocked and horrified by the many lives claimed by today's devastating fires", said UN Secretary General António Guterres on Sunday.

"All of this is so hard to understand", said Antonio, whose five family members had been housed in a packed old-age home with other evacuees.

The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has updated its travel advice for travellers to Portugal on account of the massive fire that ravaged central Portugal this past weekend and which affected a number of Britons, two of whom were hospitalised. "The Portuguese people can count on our solidarity, support and care".

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