Portugal forest fire: What we know

National of Art									SOURCE National of Art

The huge forest fire raging since Saturday (June 17) has killed at least 62 people, the government said on Sunday (June 18), in what is possibly the deadliest-ever forest blaze in the Atlantic coastal country, used to the woods burning nearly every summer. Fourteen of the injured were in serious condition, RTP said.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who on Sunday visited Pedrogao Grande, a mountainous area about 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Lisbon, called it the biggest human tragedy in Portugal in living memory.

Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes said 59 people died from the flames and suffocating smoke, while another two people died in a traffic accident related to the fires.

A catastrophic forest fire in Portugal has claimed at least 62 lives, officials say.

"This is surely the worst tragedy in terms of lives lost we can remember in the last few years", said Costa. He anxious strong winds could help spread the blaze further.

Police chief Almeida Rodrigues blamed dry thunderstorms for the blaze which broke out on Saturday in Pedrogao Grande, saying a tree had been struck by lightning.

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

French President Emmanuel Macron, Pope Francis and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressed solidarity with Portugal. The fire area is covered in dense woodland over steep hills.

He also warned that the death toll could still increase.

Media in Portugal said the fire is no closer to being contained despite about 600 firefighters working to put them out.

"This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we can not remember a tragedy of these proportions", said the municipality's mayor, Valdemar Alves, according to The AP. One man told of his narrow escape: "I went out completely in the middle of the flames, to get out of the house".

Gomes said that 14 civilians had been injured, 10 of them seriously, along with six firefighters.

In a statement, the European Commission said they could provide aircraft, while Spain and France also offered aircraft.

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

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



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