Portugal in mourning as dozens killed in raging forest fires

Bruno Cirelli
Giugno 19, 2017

A forest fire raging since Saturday in central Portugal has killed at least 57 people, a government official said yesterday, in what is possibly the deadliest-ever single forest blaze in Portugal.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa called it "the greatest tragedy we have seen in recent years in terms of forest fires", the BBC reported.

More than 350 soldiers on Sunday joined the 700 firefighters who have been struggling to put out the blaze, schools in the area were closed until further notice and outdoor fires were banned.

Officials said 16 died after being trapped in their cars and engulfed in flames in Pedrogao Grande, near the famous university city of Coimbra.

Portugal has declared three days of national mourning after at least 62 people were killed in raging forest fires.

Here's what the blaze - and the efforts to contain it - looks like.

At least four other significant wildfires were burning Sunday elsewhere in Portugal but the one in Pedrogao Grande was responsible for all the deaths.

Two Britons have been caught up in the Portuguese forest fires, receiving minor burns in the tragedy that has claimed 61 lives.

"Three died from smoke inhalation on roads and 16 inside cars".

Forest fires are common in the the Iberian peninsula during the summer months, but today's example is particularly extreme.

Two women cover their mouths and noses during a wildfire that threatens the village of Torgal, Castanheira de Pera, on June 18, 2017.

"I am completely stunned by the number of deaths". The ceremony took place before the teams' match Sunday at the Confederations Cup tournament.

Juncker wrote in the letter that "Our thoughts are with all the victims, their families and all the fearless soldiers of peace that in a very hard terrain and under challenging circumstances continue to fight this bad fire".

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

Pope Francis has led thousands of people in a moment of silent prayer for the victims of the Portugal fire.

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

"We want to send a big hug to everyone in Portugal for what they are going through, which is absolutely awful".

He added that Portuguese authorities were working on identifying the victims. Mariano Rajoy has tweeted that he is "overwhelmed by the tragedy at Pedrogao Grande".

According to the prime minister, just 11 fires were still active but he said the authorities were "particularly anxious about two of them".

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