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Monday, 19 June 2017

Portugal Forest Fire: Death Toll Rises To 62. Prime Minister Calls It ‘Biggest Tragedy Of Human Life That We Have Known’

News, Portugal Forest Fire, tragedy,
Raging forest fires in central Portugal have killed at least 62 people, many of them trapped in their cars as flames swept over a road, in what the Prime Minister of Portugal called “the biggest tragedy” the country has experienced in years.


The country has declared three days of national mourning for the victims in the blaze, “which has caused an irreparable loss of human life”, according to a government statement.

A lightning strike is believed to have sparked the blaze in the Pedrogao Grande area after investigators found a tree that was hit during a “dry thunderstorm”, the head of the national judicial police told Portuguese media. Dry thunderstorms are frequent when falling water evaporates before reaching the ground because of high temperatures. Portugal, like most southern European countries, is prone to forest fires in the dry summer months.
“This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we cannot remember a tragedy of these proportions,” said Valdemar Alves, Mayor of Pedrogao Grande. “I am completely stunned by the number of deaths.”

Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes said that 60 people died from the flames and suffocating smoke, while another two people perished in a traffic accident related to the fires. Another 54 people were injured, including four firefighters and a seriously injured minor, Mr Gomes told state broadcaster RTP.

Authorities had previously said that 40C (104F) heat in recent days might have played a part in the inferno about 150km (95 miles) northeast of Lisbon. More than 350 soldiers joined the 700 firefighters who were struggling to put out the blaze, the government said.

A huge wall of thick smoke and bright red flames towered over the top of trees near houses in the wooded region. Local resident Isabel Brandao told The Associated Press that she had feared for her life.

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

RTP showed terrifying images of several people on a road trying to escape the intense smoke that had reduced visibility to a question of a few metres. A young man shared a bottle of water with a distraught woman as she stumbled down the road.

Gomes said that at least 30 people were killed when their vehicles were engulfed by flames on a road between the towns of Figueiró dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pêra, and three others died from smoke inhalation in Figueiró dos Vinhos. The remaining bodies were found outside of the cars or in the forest, the official said.



Source: Independent

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