More than 20 dead from forest fires in central Portugal

Olive Rios
June 19, 2017

A forest fire in central Portugal killed at least 19 people Saturday, majority occupants of various vehicles that were on the road and caught in the blaze, an official said in televised remarks.

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

Leaders from around the world have expressed their condolences and the government has declared three days of national mourning.

The fire broke out on Saturday in the municipality of Pedrogao Grande in central Portugal, before spreading fast across several fronts. "I never thought it would come to this side", she said Sunday.

"Unfortunately this seems to be the greatest tragedy we have seen in recent years in terms of forest fires", said Prime Minister Antonio Costa. In August of previous year, the island of Madeira was devastated by a fire that killed three people and more than a thousand had to be evacuated from their homes. "We were afraid the fire would reach us". France had offered three planes and Spain had sent two, authorities said.

Portuguese National Republican Guard firefighters work to stop a forest fire from reaching the village of Avelar, central Portugal, at sunrise Sunday, June 18 2017.

"We are most likely facing the biggest tragedy of human life that we have known", he said.

He added that Portuguese authorities are working on identifying the victims, and Spanish rescuers are assisting in efforts to control the blazes. Citing the high temperatures, it said that all outdoor fires were prohibited.

"The smoke cloud is very low, which does not allow helicopters and fire planes to work efficiently. but we're doing everything possible and impossible to put out this fire", Gomes said, adding that no villages were now at risk.

Gomes gave a grim description of the deaths to RTP. Government officials say many of victims died in their cars when flames swept over a road. Pedrogao Grand is about 120 miles north of Lisbon.

This item has been corrected to show that Jorge Gomes is an Interior Ministry official, not interior minister.

A burned auto in the aftermath of the forest fire near Pedrogao Grande, in central Portugal.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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