Sunday, 18 June 2017

Portugal wild forest fire kills 58, injures dozens (Photos)

 A catastrophic forest fire in in central Portugal has claimed at least 58 lives with many injured. Most died in their cars as they tried to run from the flames, the government said on Sunday.

Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, described the blazes – which have injured dozens more people – as “the greatest tragedy we have seen in recent years in terms of forest fires”, Guardian reports.

Firefighters and 160 vehicles were dispatched to stop the fire, which broke out on Saturday afternoon in the municipality of Pedrógão Grande before spreading fast across several fronts.

About 60 forest fires took hold across Portugal on Saturday night, with 1,700 firefighters battling to put them out.

The secretary of state for internal administration, Jorge Gomes, said 22 people burned to death in their cars after becoming trapped by flames on the road between Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera. Three others died from smoke inhalation.

The Portuguese government said 59 people were injured. Eighteen of them had been taken to hospitals in Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra. Five of them were seriously injured: four firefighters and a child.

Isabel Brandao, a local resident, told the Associated Press that she had feared for her life.

“Yesterday we saw the fire but thought it was very far. I never thought it would come to this side,” she said. “At 3.30 am, my mother-in-law woke me up quickly and we never went to sleep again. We were afraid the fire would reach us.”

Valdemar Alves, the mayor of Pedrógão Grande, said he was stunned by the number of deaths, adding: “This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we cannot remember a tragedy of these proportions.”

Dry thunderstorms could have been the cause of the fatal blaze, according to the prime minister.

Spain has since dispatched two water-bombing planes on Sunday morning to aid the Portuguese fire service.

Portugal, like most of southern Europe, is prone to forest fires in the dry summer months.

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