Published: Tue, June 20, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

PM grieves loss of lives in Portugal forest fire

PM grieves loss of lives in Portugal forest fire

More than 20 people were killed in forest fires in central Portugal, some of whom were trapped in their cars as the flames circled their vehicles on the road, the authorities said Sunday. In a sign of help Portugal is receiving from its European neighbors, four Spanish fire engines were seen driving off from the headquarters.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa flew overnight to the scene and spoke on arrival of an "unprecedented situation".

"I express my closeness to the beloved people of Portugal following the devastating fire", Francis said.

A massive #Forest Fire claimed sixty-two lives and more than fifty people were injured in the forested region of Pedrógão Grande, which is about 200 km away from the Portuguese capital Lisbon.

The wildfire has had a dramatic effect on operations within central Portugal.

Police say lightning striking a tree may have caused the fire.

"Dry thunderstorms are frequent when falling water evaporates before reaching the ground because of high temperatures", wire services noted.

British citizen Daniel Starling shows a wrench picked from the debris of his burnt house in the village of Figueira, near Pedrogao Grande, central Portugal. "Something extraordinary has taken place and we have to wait for experts to properly determine its causes". Costa had warned on Sunday that the death toll could still rise.

In addition, the search and identification of possible victims are on village by village.

More than 350 soldiers have joined the 700 firefighters who have been struggling to put out the flames since Saturday. He said authorities were anxious about strong winds that could help spread the blaze further.

Despite government assurances that the first response by the emergency services was swift and adequate, many media and residents questioned the efficiency of the operation and the strategic planning in a country which is used to wooded areas burning every year.

PM Modi tweeted, "Sad to learn of tragic loss of lives in the forest fire in Portugal".

Fires on the tourist island of Madeira in August killed three people, while across 2016 around 40 homes were destroyed and 5,400 hectares of land burned.

Mr Starling said: "We stopped at one point, because we did not know where to go, because there were flames everywhere". "I am complete stunned by the number of deaths".

Hundreds of firefighters have been tackling the blaze in the centre of the country but it's now known that at least 61 people have died.

Gomes gave a grim description of the deaths to RTP.

Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes said that most had died from smoke inhalation and burns, while two were killed in a road accident related to the fires.

Many victims were burnt as they were trapped in their cars around the epicentre of the blaze in Pedrogao Grande, in what is the deadliest such disaster in Portugal's recent history.

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