60 people killed in Portugal as forest fires race across the city

Violet Powell
June 19, 2017

Of the victims, 59 people were killed from flames or smoke inhalation and two more were killed in a road accident trying to flee the blaze, according the spokesperson Aicha El Hammar.

The death toll from the fires is now at 57 but the number is expected to rise as over 10 people fight for their lives at local hospitals.

More than 140 forest fires continued to burn across the country Sunday night, with around 2,000 firefighters battling to put them out.

The flames spread "with great violence", moving out in four directions, he said.

PM Costa said that the fire fighting crews are having difficulty approaching the area because the fires are "very intense".

The prime minister said the emergency services acted as fast as they could but acknowledged that some of the efforts like alerting the population might have been hindered because the blaze had ruined phone lines and communications towers. "I never thought it would come to this side", she said.

Portugal was sweltering under a severe heatwave yesterday, with temperatures exceeding 40C degrees in several regions. But Prime Minister Antonio Costa said high temperatures of 40 C (104 F) in recent days may have played a part.

Portugal was hit by a series of fires previous year which devastated more than 100,000 hectares (1,000 square kilometres) of the mainland.

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"We have 19 confirmed deaths, all civilians", Gomes said, adding that 20 people have been injured, including six firefighters, and two people were still missing.

Nearly 700 firefighters and more than 200 fire engines have been deployed to tackle the flames, according to the civil defence service.

Avelar resident Isabel Brandao has told The Associated Press that "the problem is that there was no rain".

"We express our condolences to those that have lost loved ones." said Christos Stylianides of the European Commission.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are in contact with the local authorities regarding the forest fires in central Portugal". "We don't have memory of such a human tragedy", said Prime Minister António Costa to reporters.

Portuguese National Republican Guard firefighters work to stop a forest fire from reaching the village of Avelar, Portugal, on June 18.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa went to the scene, about 110 miles northeast of Lisbon, after midnight and said there was no lack of immediate response to face the blaze.

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