Raging forest fires in central Portugal have killed at least 61 people, many burnt to death in their cars, the government said Sunday, in the country’s worst such disaster in recent history.
Another 54 people have been injured, including four firefighters and a child with serious injuries.
“We escaped in time, me on the tractor and he with our van”, Luisilda said.
Jorge Gomes, Portugal’s secretary of state for the internal affairs, said on Sunday that 22 people burned to death in their cars when they found themselves trapped by flames on the road between the cities of Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera.
“This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we can not remember a tragedy of these proportions”, said Valdemar Alves, the mayor of Pedrogao Grande.
He said 17 others died right outside their cars or by the road, 11 people died in the forest, two people died in a auto accident related to the fire and information was missing on the other deaths.
Other bodies were found in houses in isolated areas.
Costa said firefighting crews were having difficulties in approaching the area because the fire was “very intense”.
A raging forest fire in central Portugal killed at least 62 people as they desperately tried to flee, charring cars and trucks as it swept over roads. The European Union has also promised to provide firefighting aircraft.
“We express our condolences to those that have lost loved ones”, said Christos Stylianides of the European Commission. “The priority now is to save those people who could still be in danger”, PM Costa said at the Civil Protection headquarters near Lisbon adding that a period of national mourning would be announced soon. “There are people who arrived saying they didn’t want to die in their homes, which were surrounded by flames”, Ricardo Tristao of Ansiao told reporters.
In 1966, a blaze in the forest of Sintra, west of Lisbon killed 25 soldiers trying to battle the flames.
“We are most likely facing the biggest tragedy of human life that we have known”, he said.
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“Overwhelmed by the tragedy of Pedrogao Grande”.
Last year, thousands of firefighters battled at at least 12 huge fires across the country. “The Portuguese people have our solidarity, support and affection”, Spain’s President Mariano Rajoy Brey wrote on Twitter.
Many world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Pope Francis and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressed solidarity with Portugal.