Portugal fire leaves 61 people dead, dozens injured
At least 59 people were injured in the blaze Saturday, including eight firefighters and a child. Some were hospitalized in serious condition Sunday, CNN affiliate TVI reported.
Some victims got stuck in their cars and on the side of the road in what officials described as the “greatest wildfire tragedy of recent years.” The blaze spread Saturday onto Pedrogao Grande town, forcing residents to try and leave the town to escape towering flames.
“Many cars could not get out and people burned to death inside their cars,” Interior Minister official Jorge Gomes told the affiliate.
Firefighters were still fighting the flames Sunday.
The municipality’s president, Valdemar Alves, said there were areas “completely surrounded” by the blaze and not enough firefighters to battle the flames.
“The violence of this fire was such that I am certain many people have died,” Alves told TVI. “I am shocked with this death toll.”
Authorities said the number of victims may rise as firefighters inspect the villages affected.
Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, offered a word of comfort to those still battling the fires and said that “all that could be done was done.”
European countries are coming together to assist Portugal. France and Spain have sent planes to help mitigate the blaze, the European Commission said.
“We express our condolences to those that have lost loved ones,” said Christos Stylianides of the European Commission. “The EU is fully ready to help. All will be done to assist the authorities and people of Portugal at this time of need.”
“Overwhelmed by the tragedy of Pedrogao Grande. The Portuguese people have our solidarity, support and affection,” Spain President Mariano Rajoy Brey wrote on Twitter.
Pope Francis prayed for the victims during his weekly prayer on Sunday.
“I express my closeness with the dear Portuguese people for the devastating fire that is affecting the forests around Pedrogao Grande, causing many deaths and injuries. We pray in silence,” the Pope said.
Britain issued a travel warning for its citizens warning them of the fires in Portugal and urging them to be careful while visiting or driving through woodland areas.
“Around 2.6 million British nationals visited Portugal in 2015. Most visits are trouble-free,” the British Foreign and Commonwealth office said in a statement.
On Friday, Portugal’s National Authority for Public Safety issued wildfire alerts due to high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds.
Last year, thousands of firefighters battled at at least 12 huge fires across the country.
Three people were killed and over 1,000 evacuated in the Portuguese island of Madeira due to the fierce wildfires a year ago.
Pedrogao Grande is about 120 miles north of Lisbon.