Death toll in Portugal forest fire

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A major forest fire sweeping through central Portugal has led to at least 57 fatalities, with 59 more people injured, Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes said, adding that many were burnt to death in their cars while making a desperate attempt to flee.

Secretary of State of Internal Administration Jorge Gomes had previously put the death toll at at least 43 people.

Jorge Gomes said that about 600 firefighters have been trying to put out the fires since Saturday.

He reported that at least 18 people were “burned to death in their cars,” while several others died from smoke inhalation.

Six firefighters have been injured, Gomes added.

Eighteen of the 59 injured are being treated in hospitals in Lisbon, Coimbra, and Porto, Gomes said, as cited by local media.

Since noon on Saturday when the fire started in a mountainous area of the central Leiria district, measuring some 128 square kilometers, it has spilled over to another three municipalities: Castanheira de Per in Leiria, Figueiro dos Vinhos, and Gois.

The blaze has been exacerbated by extremely high temperatures, which have gone as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

“The fire continues with four active fronts, very violent, very strong, and reinforcements are continuing to arrive,” Gomes said on Saturday, while enacting an emergency civil protection plan in Leiria. He said that a field hospital and an additional mortuary have been set up as part of the effort.

Sad to learn of tragic loss of lives in the forest fire in Portugal. Deepest condolences to the Portugese people on this tragedy.

Earlier reports suggest, Portugal, the death toll in forest fires has risen to 24, says Prime Minister Antonio Costa. The majority died while trying to flee the Pedrogao Grande area in their cars, according to the government. Several fire fighters are reported to be among about 20 people injured. Mr Costa said that they are witnessing a terrible tragedy. He said, so far, 24 deaths are confirmed and the death toll may rise further. Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes earlier said that three people died from smoke inhalation and 16 died in their cars on the road linking Figueiro dos Vinhos to Castanheira de Pera. It is not yet known what caused the fire, which has also burnt down houses in the area.President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker expressed condolences to the victims’ families on his Twitter. He also promised to provide help through an EU civil protection mechanism.

Media agencies

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