15 December, Friday


At least 61 killed as forest fires rage across Portugal

A family are reported to have been caught in "a tornado of flames" as a mayor says he is "completely stunned" by the death toll.

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Three days of national mourning have been declared in Portugal after at least 61 people were killed in forest fires.
 
Many of the victims died while trapped in their cars as flames swept over a road between the towns of Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera.
 
Interior ministry official Jorge Gomes said 59 people died from burns and suffocation, while two others were killed in a traffic accident related to the fires.
 
Four firefighters and a child are among 54 people who have been injured.
 
The blaze is believed to have been sparked by a lightning strike in Pedrogao Grande, central Portugal, overnight on Saturday.
 
Some 60 forest fires broke out as temperatures passed 40C in several regions.
 
Firefighters watch a firefighter plane trying to extinguish a wildfire at Monchique, Algarve,
 
 
Prime Minister Antonio Costa described the fires as "the biggest tragedy" the country has experienced in years, adding that the death toll is expected to rise.
 
Mr Costa tweeted his "deepest regret for the victims... and a word of encouragement and strength for all who help combat this scourge".
 
Pedrogao Grande mayor Valdemar Alves said he was "completely stunned by the number of deaths".
 
Wildfire
 
 
He said: "This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we cannot remember a tragedy of these proportions."
 
In Nodeirinho, close to Pedrogao Grande, villagers said a family got caught in "a tornado of flames" as they tried to flee in their car.
 
Mr Alves added: "It does not seem real, it is out of this world. It is an authentic inferno, we have never seen anything like that."
 
A forest fire is seen near Tojeira, Pedrogao Grande, in central Portugal, June 18, 2017
 
 
Some 700 firefighters have been battling the flames, which Mr Gomes described as "very violent" in two of four fronts.
 
The Portuguese government has dispatched two army battalions to assist emergency services, while Spain has sent two water-bombing planes to help its neighbour fight the fires.
 
A burnt car on a road in Pedrogao, central Portugal
 
 
France and the European Union have also offered aircraft.
 
The forest fires are the worst to have hit Portugal since 1966, when 25 soldiers died fighting several blazes.

 

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