Portuguese radio says 25 people killed in forest fires

by Garry Watts June 19, 2017, 0:06
Portuguese radio says 25 people killed in forest fires

At least 60 people have been killed in forest fires in Portugal.

Firefighters are now tackling a major forest fire in the Pedrógão Grande area, 30 miles south-east of Coimbra.

Several firefighters are among the 59 injured, the officials said. Police said a lightning striking a tree probably caused the fire after investigators found a tree that was hit during a "dry thunderstorm".

Six of those injured are understood to be firefighters.

Portugal's civil protection agency, which coordinates the firefighting efforts, issued a warning of the increased risk for forest fires in Friday. "We don't have memory of such a human tragedy", said Prime Minister António Costa to reporters.

President Marcelo Rebelo went to the Leiria region to meet families of the victims, "sharing their pain in the name of all the Portuguese people", he said.

A huge forest fire raging since Saturday, June 17, in central Portugal has killed at least 62 people, the government said on Sunday, in what is possibly the deadliest-ever forest blaze in the Atlantic coastal country, used to the woods burning nearly every summer.

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Queen Elizabeth, 91, and her grandson Prince William also visited residents and emergency workers on Friday. The British government has announced a 5 million-pound ($6.3 million) emergency fund for the victims.

Avelar resident Isabel Brandao has told The Associated Press that "the problem is that there was no rain". Costa also said the authorities were working on identifying the victims of the blaze.

More than 50 fires are said to be burning across the country involving about 2,000 firefighters after intense heat combined with strong winds to fan the flames. "If it had rained, this would not happen".

"I am shocked and horrified by the many lives claimed by today's devastating fires", said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres Sunday.

Authorities had previously said that temperatures which have soared to 40C in recent days might have played a part in the inferno, centred about 95 miles north-east of the capital Lisbon.

We have had large-scale fires before over the past couple of decades - this year is not unusual in that respect - but it is certainly unusual to have so many fatalities in one place.

"What happened was cables and communications towers were destroyed by the fire, even their first replacements melted", he said. Government officials say many of victims died in their cars when flames swept over a road.

The number of victims of a massive forest fire in Portugal reached 43 people.


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