At least 39 people killed in furious forest fires in central Portugal, a lot of them are trapped in cars as blazes swept over a road. On Sunday, the Prime Minister Antonio Costa called “the biggest tragedy of human life what we have known in years”. Initially, the death toll was reported at 25 in the early morning and the updated figure was given by the public broadcaster RTP said the death toll, referring to Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes.
Gomes said that the losses occurred in the Pedrogao Grande area, near about 150 kilometers northeast of Lisbon, where about 600 firefighters have been trying to control the fires since Saturday. Gomes added that at least 16 individuals were killed after their vehicles were engulfed by blazes on a road between the towns of Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera, and 3 others died from smoke inhalation in Figueiro dos Vinhos. There was no instant information about how the others were killed. An enormous wall of thick smoke and splendid red flames towered over the top of trees close houses in the wooded locale. A local resident Isabel Brandao said to The Associated Press that she had dreaded for her life.
“Yesterday we saw the fire but thought it was very far. I never thought it would come to this side. At 3:30 a.m., My mother-in-law woke me up quickly and we never went to sleep again. We were afraid the fire would reach us,” she said. The RTP said that there are at any rate another 20 people injured, including six firefighters. It also said that 14 of the injured were in serious condition. The Spanish state television showed frightening pictures from Portugal of some people on a road trying to get away from the powerful smoke that had decreased visibility to a couple of meters (yards). A young man shared a bottle of water to a troubled woman as she falls down the road.
The Costa said that the firefighting teams were experiencing issues in going ahead of the as the fire was “very intense”. He added that Portuguese authorities were trying on recognizing the causalities and that the Spanish rescuers would help them in efforts to control the flames. Costa said that while the investigations are going on to find the reason of the fire, experts believe that the high temperatures of 40 C in recent days may have had an impact. The mayor of Pedrogao Grande, Valdemar Alves said, “This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we cannot remember a tragedy of these proportions. I am completely stunned by the number of deaths.” Like many of the southern European countries, Portugal, too, is inclined to forest fires in the dry summer months.