tiptrot.com June 22, 2017

'The greatest tragedy of recent years:' Forest fires in Portugal kill 60

19 June 2017, 12:09 | Bernice Figueroa

Portugal's worst wildfire in decades kills at least 57

Firefighters of the Portuguese National Republican Guard work to stop a forest fire from reaching the village of Avelar central Portugal at sunrise Sunday June 18 2017. A number of people have been killed in forest fires in central Portugal many of

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

Among the dozens of people injured was an eight-year-old girl with burns found wandering alone close to the fire, the Correio do Manhã newspaper reported.

Local town hall chief Valdemar Alves, speaking shortly before the death toll was made official, said there were villages which were "completely surrounded by flames and in great danger".

"The fire continues with four active fronts, very violent, very strong, and reinforcements are continuing to arrive", Gomes said on Saturday, while enacting an emergency civil protection plan in Leiria.

Some 60 forest fires broke out overnight on Saturday, as temperatures passed 40C in several regions. France has offered three planes and Spain has sent two, authorities said.

"This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we can not remember a tragedy of these proportions", Pedrógão Grande Mayor Valdemar Alves said, according to the Portugal News.

The cause of the rapidly spreading wildfires is now unknown, although officials cited by the Times suggest recent dry thunderstorms, in which there's lightning but no rainfall. The area is experiencing a brutal heatwave with temperatures hovering around 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Leaders from around the world have expressed their condolences and the government has declared three days of national mourning.

Portugal is prone to forest fires during the dry summer months.

Public broadcaster RTP said there were about 20 injured, including six firefighters.

He added "I am so thankful to the firefighters and other professions who are giving their all for the security of each of us by fighting the fires".

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are in contact with the local authorities regarding the forest fires in central Portugal". Mariano Rajoy tweeted that he is "overwhelmed by the tragedy at Pedrogao Grande".

"We're doing everything we can to see if we can mobilise fire crews from Lisbon".

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa went to the scene, about 110 miles northeast of Lisbon, after midnight and said there was no lack of immediate response to face the blaze.

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