Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
Culture | By Julio Duncan

Portugal awaits foreign help to fight deadly wildfires

Portugal awaits foreign help to fight deadly wildfires

The death toll from the forest fires raging in central Portugal rose to 62 on Sunday, with 54 others injured, and search for more bodies and investigation into the cause of the disaster were still under way.

Eight firefighters are among the dozens of injured, CNN reports, four of whom remain in critical condition.

The fire in the wooded area of Pedrogao Grande - about 95 miles northeast of Lisbon - created a huge wall of thick smoke and bright red flames towering over the top of trees. Two people were killed in a traffic accident related to the fires.

Government officials say many of victims died in their cars when flames swept over a road.

The fire, which was still burning on Sunday, brought "a dimension of human tragedy that we can not remember", Prime Minister António Costa said during a visit to the scorched area around Pedrógão Grande.

Statistics show that 35 percent of Portugal is covered by woodland, slightly above the 28-nation European Union average of 31 percent. There are concerns strong winds could help spread the blaze further.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday expressed his condolences to the Portuguese government and people. "We have even managed to find the tree that was struck by the lightning", Rodrigues said.

A man on the balcony of a house looks up at a forest fire raging on a hillside above the village of Avelar central Portugal before sunrise Sunday

Dry thunderstorms are frequent when falling water evaporates before reaching the ground because of high temperatures.

A forest fire has claimed 61 lives in Portugal, the country's National Civil Protection Agency revealed on Sunday.

More than 350 soldiers had joined 700 firefighters fighting the fire.

Firefighters kept battling on Sunday (June 18) the flames in Pedrogao Grande, central Portugal, in an effort to prevent the fire from spreading. "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. One man told of his narrow escape: "I went out completely in the middle of the flames, to get out of the house".

Mr Costa also tweeted his "deepest regret for the victims. and a word of encouragement and strength for all who help combat this scourge".

"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.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, attending the match in Russian Federation, also offered his condolences.

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