Portugal forest fires kills 24, many burn to death in their cars


Portugal forest fires kills 24, many burn to death in their cars

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.

The fire broke out on Saturday in the municipality of Pedrogao Grande in central Portugal, apparently caused by a lightning strike, and spread furiously in several directions. More than 350 soldiers were joining Sunday the 700 firefighters who were struggling to put out the blaze since Saturday, the government said.

Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes has told state broadcaster RTP that the number of victims from the flames and suffocating smoke has reached 60, while another two people perished in a traffic accident related to the fires.

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

Spain has sent two water-bombing planes to help tackle the fires, and the European Union is co-ordinating an global firefighting and relief effort.

The European Union said it had activated its civil protection efforts responding to a call for assistance by Portuguese authorities.

He added that firefighting crews are having difficulties battling the "very violent flames". "I am completely stunned by the number of deaths".

The French government confirmed that three French planes would be at the location of the fire and operational by Sunday afternoon. "Let us pray in silence".

He said at least 30 victims, including entire families, were found dead in their vehicles on two roads in the Leiria district that were blocked by the flames' advance, trapping motorists in the inferno.

The European Commission's aid chief, Christos Stylianides, said in a statement that "all will be done to assist the authorities and people of Portugal at this time of need".

Portugal was hit by a series of fires past year which devastated more than 100,000 hectares (1,000 square kilometres) of the mainland.

In recent years, Portugal has experienced numerous wildfires, but none like this.

Pope Francis has led thousands of people in a moment of silent prayer for the victims of the Portugal fire. France was also sending three aircraft, said the report.

Fire and smoke is seen on the IC8 motorway during a forest fire near Pedrogao Grande, in central Portugal, June 18, 2017.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in a message published on Twitter: "Solidarity with Portugal, hit by bad fires. Deepest condolences to the Portugese people on this tragedy", the Prime Minister tweeted. "The Portuguese people can count on our solidarity, support and care".

In 1966, a blaze in the forest of Sintra, west of Lisbon killed 25 soldiers trying to battle the flames.



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