Published On: Mon, Jun 19th, 2017

Portugal forest fires kill 62

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2017_6$largeimg19_Monday_2017_015126155Lisbon : A huge forest fire raging since Saturday in central Portugal has killed at least 62 persons, the government said on Sunday, in what is possibly the deadliest-ever forest blaze in the Atlantic coastal country, used to the woods burning almost every summer.

“The dimension of this fire was such that we don’t have memory of such a human tragedy,” Prime Minister Antonio Costa said as he arrived in Pedrogao Grande, a mountainous area some 200 km northeast of Lisbon.

He said it was vital to focus on the prevention of new fires, amid a continuing heat wave, strong winds and lack of rain. He also warned that the death toll could still increase.

The government declared three days of mourning and sent two army battalions to help the emergency services. The European Union said it would provide firefighting aircraft. France has offered three planes and Spain has sent two, authorities said.

Speaking in the Vatican, Pope Francis, who visited Portugal last month, mentioned the victims in his weekly address: “I am close to the dear people of Portugal, hit by a devastating fire which is raging in the forests around Pedrogao Grande, causing many victims and injuries. Let us pray in silence.”

Another 54 people have been injured and taken to hospitals, including four in serious condition.

Hundreds of firefighters were still battling the flames on Sunday. Various local motorways were shut for safety reasons. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa visited the site of the tragedy during the night and expressed his condolences.

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