Portugal wildfires 'started by arsonists,' says firefighter chief

Elias Hubbard
June 26, 2017

Maria Jose Andre of Portugal's Air Accident Office said she had been told by the Civil Protection Agency that a Canadair water-dropping plane had crashed in central Portugal while fighting the wildfires.

Cooler temperatures and weaker winds also helped firefighters make progress against a nearby wildfire in Gois, about 150 kilometers (95 miles) from Lisbon.

Officials have said communications were knocked out in the initial fierce fires when most people died, affecting mobile and fixed telephone networks.

Television stations SIC and TVI said the Canadair aircraft had crashed near Pedrogao Grande, centre of the biggest fire that has killed 64 people since Saturday.

However, 30 water-dropping aircraft were battling the blazes, some operating under bilateral agreements with the Portuguese government and others as part of an European Union co-operation agreement. They said airborne search-and-rescue teams dispatched to look for wreckage didn't find anything and that no firefighting planes were missing.

Earlier reports suggested that firefighters, backed by water-dumping planes, had tamed 70 per cent of the blaze.

Firefighters have struggled to gain complete control over the country's deadliest forest fire on record, which killed 64 people at the weekend.

More than 1,000 firefighters on the ground and aircraft from several countries are battling the blazes, BBC reports.

Antena 1 public radio reporter Pedro Sa Guerra said there was thick smoke over the area and that a local woman told him she saw a plane crash in a fireball on Tuesday.

A water-dropping plane involved in an operation to tackle devastating forest fires in Portugal has crashed, according to reports.

The blaze around Pedrogao Grande was expected to be under control shortly, said civil protection chief Vitor Vaz Pinto.

The official death toll from the fires now stands at 64.

Many of those who perished were caught in their cars as they tried to flee the blaze, majority on the N236, now dubbed the "road of death" by local media.

Government officials say Prime Minister Antonio Costa has ordered an investigation into what happened on Saturday night, when the deaths occurred.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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