At least 20 killed in Portugal wildfires

VIGO BURNS Fires spread across the north-west of Spain

VIGO BURNS Fires spread across the north-west of Spain

At least 27 people have died as firefighters battle more than 145 fires in Portugal, the country's civil protection service says, while Spain battles its own blazes. In neighboring Spain, four deaths were reported.

"There are still places where security services have not yet managed to reach", civil protection agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar said, adding that the toll remained preliminary for that reason.

The situation was still "critical" because of unseasonably high temperatures. She also said that an unknown number of people were still missing.

In June, a massive forest wildfire killed 64 people and injured 150 people.

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Even before the latest blazes, almost 216,000 hectares (530,000 acres) had been consumed by wildfires across the country between January and September, according to estimates from the country's forest service.

A prolonged drought and mid-October temperatures of more than 30 C (86 F) have fueled the recent spate of blazes.

A third person was on Monday confirmed to have died in Carbelleda de Avia, close to Oursense, a city in northwestern Spain, in a series of wildfires which have caused widespread destruction in the Spanish Autonomous Community of Galicia since Friday.

They included two people who were killed when they became trapped by flames in a van in Chandebrito. Thousands of people have been evacuated.

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Spain's prime minister focused on criminal intent, and said authorities were certain the fires were caused by arsonists.

He told reporters: "All of Galicia is weeping this morning for our razed hills, but especially for the loss of human lives". Schools were closed Monday and at least 20 planes were joining 350 firefighting units in tackling the blazes.

Officials in both countries said they expected that rain and cooler weather forecast for later on Monday would help put out the fires.

In a village in the commune of Vouzela, in the northern district of Viseu, residents used water hoses to try to fight the flames as several homes were consumed.

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