A massive wildfire is reflected in a stream in central Portugal on Sunday, 18 June 2017. Several hundred firefighters fought the blaze, which broke out Saturday in the municipality of Pedrogao Grande. Photo: Patricia de Melo Moreira / AFP

By Julia Jones, Nicole Chavez and Chandrika Narayan
18 June 2017

(CNN) – A raging wildfire has ripped through central Portugal, killing 61 people and injuring dozens more in what officials there describe as the "greatest wildfire tragedy of recent years."

At least 54 people were injured in the blaze Saturday, including eight firefighters and a child. Four of the firefighters were in critical condition Sunday, according to Paulo Santos, an operations and emergencies official with the National Relief Operations Command in Lisbon.

The government has declared three days of mourning.

The head of Portugal's judiciary police told reporters the fire was started by natural causes.

"We have been able to determine that the origin of the fire was caused by dry thunderstorms," José Maria Almeida Rodrigues said, according to the Portuguese state-run news agency Lusa.

Some victims were burned to death in their cars as they tried to flee, officials said.

The blaze spread Saturday to the Pedrógão Grande community, forcing residents to flee the area to escape towering flames. Pedrógão Grande is about 120 miles north of Lisbon.

"Many cars could not get out and people burned to death inside their cars," Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes told CNN affiliate TVI. Firefighters were still fighting the flames Sunday. [more]

Portugal wildfire: 61 killed, victims burned in cars as they fled


By Helena Alves and Armando Franca
18 June 2017

PEDROGAO GRANDE, Portugal (Associated Press) – A raging forest fire in central Portugal sent flames sweeping over roads, killing at least 61 people, many of them trapped in their cars as they tried to flee, officials said Sunday. The country's prime minister called it "the biggest tragedy" that Portugal has experienced in decades and declared three days of national mourning.

A huge wall of thick smoke and bright red flames towered over the top of trees in the forested Pedrogao Grande area some 150 kilometers (95 miles) northeast of Lisbon where a lightning strike was believed to have sparked the blaze Saturday. 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. At least four other significant wildfires affected different areas of the country on Sunday but the one in Pedrogao Grande was responsible for all the deaths.

"The dimensions of this fire have caused a human tragedy beyond any in our memory," said Prime Minister Antonio Costa told reporters on his arrival at the scene Sunday. "Something extraordinary has taken place and we have to wait for technicians to properly determine its causes."

He said the death toll was lowered from the previously reported 62 victims because one person had been counted twice.

More than 350 soldiers on Sunday joined the 700 firefighters who have been struggling to put out the blaze. Authorities say temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in the area in recent days might have also played a part in the inferno.

The forest fire deaths were the biggest in memory in Portugal, which saw 25 Portuguese soldiers die fighting wildfires in 1966. Last August, an outbreak of fires across Portugal killed four people, including three on the island of Madeira, and destroyed huge areas of forest.

Resident Isabel Brandao told The Associated Press that she had feared for her life when she saw the blaze.

"Yesterday we saw the fire but thought it was very far. I never thought it would come to this side," she said Sunday. "At 3:30 a.m., my mother-in-law woke me up quickly and we never went to sleep again. We were afraid the fire would reach us."

Other locals were also shocked.

"This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we cannot remember a tragedy of these proportions," said Valdemar Alves, the mayor of Pedrogao Grande. "I am completely stunned by the number of deaths." [more]

Raging forest fire kills 61 in Portugal; many as they fled

1 comments :

  1. Anonymous said...

    I noticed that many of the right-wing "conservative" types commented on this horrible tragedy, proclaiming that "stupid people died" and "this was Obama's fault" and so on. Some even claimed that this was "an act of God".

    It has become quite clear that the right-wing of America is the enemy of Americans and people throughout the planet.  

 

Blog Template by Adam Every . Sponsored by Business Web Hosting Reviews