Nearly 60 killed as forest fires sweep across central Portugal

Portugal Forest Fires

Portugal's worst wildfire in decades kills at least 57

Raging forest fires in central Portugal killed at least 62 people, many of them trapped in their cars as flames swept over a road, in what the prime minister on Sunday called "the biggest tragedy" the country has experienced in years.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa said that firefighting crews were having difficulties in approaching the area because the fire was "very intense".

Thirty bodies were found inside cars and nearly 20 more were found next to vehicles, Portuguese officials said.

Numerous victims died as they tried to flee the fire northeast of Lisbon in their cars.

"It is a time of pain but also. a time to carry on the fight" against the flames, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told the nation in a televised address Sunday evening after the government declared three days of national mourning.

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

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"The priority now is to get the ongoing fire under control - after that we must understand what happened".

A Spanish firefighting aircraft is assisting and another is expected to arrive later on Sunday, while France is also sending three aircraft.

The crowd fell silent and Francis bowed his head to recall the "many victims" of the blaze.

Many victims died inside their vehicles as they drove on nearby roads in attempts to avoid the blaze, CNN reported.

Brandao said that "at 3:30 mother-in-law woke me up quickly and we never went to sleep again".

Costa said while investigations are ongoing to determine the cause of the fire, authorities believe the high temperatures of 40degC in recent days may have played a part.

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The FHP added that an oncoming auto "averted" hitting Larin's Cadillac head-on by slowing down and stopping short of his vehicle. He initially told the officer that he had not had any alcohol that night before revising his answer to "two or three" drinks.

Smoke covers the IC8 motorway during the forest fire near Pedrogao Grande, in central Portugal. France has offered three planes and Spain has sent two, authorities said. Mariano Rajoy has tweeted that he is "overwhelmed by the tragedy at Pedrogao Grande".

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

Coach Fernando Santos, Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest of the players released a statement saying "in this sad hour, we send our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and loved ones of the victims of the fires". "We have provided support to a number of British people caught up in the incident and stand ready to support any others who may be affected".

Games said the fatalities occurred in the Pedrogao Grande area, about 150km northeast of Lisbon, where about firefighters have been trying to put out the fires since Saturday, Gomes said.

This item has been corrected to show that Jorge Gomes is an Interior Ministry official, not interior minister.

In 1966, a blaze in the forest of Sintra, west of Lisbon killed 25 soldiers trying to battle the flames.

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When Scalise arrived in the hospital, he had an "imminent risk of death" and was "as critical as you can be", doctors also said. Sava said he told Scalise's family that "I am not declaring victory until he's playing ball in his back yard with his family".

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