Forest fires kill at least 62 in central Portugal

Portuguese firefighters work to stop a forest fire from reaching the village of Avelar in central Portugal at sunrise Sunday

In a tragic incident were nature showed its fury, 62 people killed in a raging wildfire ripped through central Portugal.

In recent years, Portugal has experienced numerous wildfires, but none like this.

Nearly 24 hours after the deaths Saturday night, fires were still churning across the forested hillsides of central Portugal.

Some victims were discovered in homes in isolated regions. From June to September 2007, 84 people died in Greek wildfires, including 67 in a blaze that torched 1,500 square kilometers (370,000 acres) of forest and farmland in southern Greece.

Thirty bodies were found inside cars and nearly 20 more were found next to vehicles, Portuguese officials said.

A raging forest fire ripping through central Portugal crossed a road on Sunday, trapping dozens of people in their cars and killing at least 30 of them.

People look at fire and smoke during a massive forest fire in Pedrogao Grande, in central Portugal on Sunday.

A burned truck is seen during a forest fire near Figueiro dos Vinhos, Portugal.

The Portuguese government has declared a state of emergency in the fire area, and also a three-day national mourning from Sunday and Tuesday.

The huge fires had been caused by dry lightning, Almeida Rodrigues, director of the Portuguese criminal investigation police (PJ), told reporters.

Authorities had previously said that temperatures which have soared to 40C in recent days might have played a part in the inferno, centred about 95 miles north-east of the capital Lisbon. "Something extraordinary has taken place and we have to wait for experts to properly determine its causes".

The death toll could rise further as many people remain missing, he warned. Firefighters did "all they could" when faced with the blaze, he said.

He added that firefighting crews are having difficulties battling the "very violent flames". The blaze spread Saturday onto Pedrogao Grande town, forcing residents to try and leave the town to escape towering flames.

About 700 firefighters worked to put out the fire, which broke out Saturday. The media in Portugal report that the fire is out of control, even though 600 firefighters are fighting to extinguish it.

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.

"I knew several of the victims", said local resident Isabel Ferreira.

"So what we must do now is to calmly provide all the resources to fight the fires". "We were only able to save two goats", she said.

Portugal was sweltering under a severe heatwave over the weekend, with temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in several regions.

Sunday evening the death toll stood at 61 with 62 injured, including eight firemen. A young man shared a bottle of water with a distraught woman as she stumbled down the road.

Eleven others died nearby as a wall of flame and dense black smoke tore through the forest.

Other 54 people were injured, including four firefighters and a seriously injured minor, Gomes told state broadcaster RTP.



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