Vast Wildfire Kills 57 in Portugal

At Least 57 Dead in Central Portugal Wildfires Many Killed in Cars

At Least 57 Dead in Central Portugal Wildfires Many Killed in Cars

Once the flames have been extinguished, however, there will no doubt be an investigation into why so many victims apparently died after finding themselves cut off, encircled by fire and stranded along roads they took while trying to flee by auto.

Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes said that 60 people died from the flames and suffocating smoke, while another two people perished in a traffic accident related to the fires.

"There is still a lot of forest that can burn", said Rui Barreto, deputy chief firefighter at the makeshift emergency services headquarters in Pedrogao Grande, where the blaze began on Saturday. To date, 18 people have been taken to hospitals in Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra, five of them - four firefighters and a child - seriously injured.

"What we are seeing is a great tragedy", Costa said.

At least four other significant wildfires were burning Sunday elsewhere in Portugal but the one in Pedrogao Grande was responsible for all the deaths.

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Strong winds together with temperatures above 40 degrees on Saturday caused the fire to spread rapidly, hindering the work of firefighters.

Nearly 24 hours after the deaths on Saturday night, fires were still churning across the forested hillsides of central Portugal.

Another 11 died in a village next to the motorway.

These forest fires have become one of the most fatal in recent memories.

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. "We were afraid the fire would reach us". The European Union has also offered help and Greece said it could send firefighters if needed.

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He said the house he has been building since 2009 in the region is now burned out. But critics say numerous reforms have not to come into force or fall short of what is required. "The magnitude of this is on a completely different scale to what I have seen before".

Local residents said they had been without the support of firefighters for hours as their homes burned.

The wildfire raged across central Portugal, with authorities saying 61 have been killed so far and 59 more injured. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted that he was "overwhelmed by the tragedy at Pedrogao Grande".

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: "Solidarity with Portugal, hit by awful fires".

"All of this is so hard to understand", said Antonio, whose five family members had been housed in a packed old-age home with other evacuees.

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Portugal "has to manage the fuel (fire-feeding vegetation) in the landscape", she said, adding that much vegetation, such as bushes and shrubs, needs to be removed or cleaned up to prevent the fires from spreading fast, and for this, the landowners must be involved.

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