Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
Culture | By Stewart Greene

Portugal forest fire: 19 dead, government says

Portugal forest fire: 19 dead, government says

The fire, which is still burning, has left more than 60 people dead in Central Portugal The New York Times (@nytimes) June 18, 2017 One psychiatric nurse is helping those who have been traumatised.

Two people were also killed in a vehicle crash related to the blaze.

A huge forest fire raging since on Saturday in central Portugal has killed at least 62 people, the government said on Sunday, in what is possibly the deadliest-ever forest blaze in the Atlantic coastal country, used to the woods burning nearly every summer.

Reinforcements are due to arrive today, including more water-dropping planes from Spain, France and Italy as part of a European Union co-operation programme.

Portugal has declared three days of mourning.

As Alison Roberts reports from Lisbon for our Newscast unit, officials believe a lightning strike is likely to blame for the Pedrogão Grande fire, and they have ruled out a criminal cause.

Scorching weather, with temperatures surpassing 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), as well as strong winds and dry woodland after weeks with little rain are fueling the blazes. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.

Another 54 people have been injured and taken to hospitals, including four in serious condition.

At least 30 people died inside their cars as they tried to flee between the towns of Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera, he said.

It is not yet known what caused the fire, though Costa said thunderstorms could have been one possible cause. Just over 1,000 firefighters are still tackling that blaze about 90 miles (150km) north of Lisbon.

More than 350 soldiers joined the firefighters.

The initial blaze started Saturday, and the flames spread along four fronts with "great violence", said Jorge Gomes, secretary of state for internal administration. "It is a real inferno, we have never seen anything like that", the mayor of Pedrogao Grande Valdemar Alves told reporters, adding that more than 20 villages had been affected.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa said that firefighting crews were having difficulties in approaching the area because the fire was "very intense".

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

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted that he is "overwhelmed by the tragedy at Pedrogao Grande".

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