Portugal awaits foreign help to fight deadly wildfires

A stream in Penela reflects the wildfire raging in central Portugal on Sunday. The fire which has killed dozens of people is

A stream in Penela reflects the wildfire raging in central Portugal on Sunday. The fire which has killed dozens of people is"the worst tragedy in terms of human lives that we've known in recent years

The death toll was cut from 62 to 61 after a counting error, "but we will certainly find other victims on the ground" in searches from village to village, said Costa. "I never thought it would come to this side", she said. "It is an authentic inferno, we have never seen anything like that", Pedrogao Grande Mayor Valdemar Alves told reporters. "We were afraid the fire would reach us".

Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes said firefighting crews were having difficulties battling the fire, which was "very intense" in at least two of its four fronts.

"The smoke cloud is very low, which does not allow helicopters and fire planes to work efficiently ... but we're doing everything possible and impossible to put out this fire", Gomes said, adding that no villages were at risk.

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

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Portugal was hit by a series of fires past year which devastated more than 100,000 hectares (1,000 square kilometres) of the mainland. He said 17 others died right outside their cars or by the road, 11 people died in the forest, two people died in a vehicle accident related to the fire and information was missing on the other deaths.

At least 54 people were injured in the wildfire on Saturday, this includes eight firefighters and a child.

The EU said it had activated its civil protection efforts responding to a call for assistance by Portuguese authorities.

"We express our condolences to those that have lost loved ones", the European Commission, executive arm of the European Union, said in a statement Sunday.

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As a result, a Spanish firefighting aircraft assisted yesterday morning with another expected. Spain also offered four on a bilateral basis.

Three people were killed and over 1,000 evacuated in the Portuguese island of Madeira due to the fierce wildfires a year ago.

"We are most likely facing the biggest tragedy of human life that we have known", he said.

Authorities were overwhelmed with food and water donations for those affected and the emergency services working in the areas near Pedrogao Grande, in central Portugal. Citing the high temperatures, it said that all outdoor fire-lighting was prohibited.

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Guterres said he spoke earlier on Sunday with the President of Portugal, Marcelo de Sousa, and with the Prime Minister, António Costa, expressing his deep sadness.

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