At least 61 killed as forest fires rage across Portugal

At Least 58 Dead in Central Portugal Wildfires Many Killed in Cars

At Least 58 Dead in Central Portugal Wildfires Many Killed in Cars

Gomes said 54 people were also injured in the fire, 5 of them seriously, including four firefighters and a minor.

Officials say 62 people have died in a raging forest fire northeast of Lisbon, most while trying to flee in their cars.

Such storms are frequent when falling water evaporates before reaching the ground because of high temperatures.

The loss of life due to a forest fire is the biggest in memory in Portugal.

Some 60 forest fires broke out as temperatures passed 40C in several regions.

The Portuguese government has established a national period of mourning from Sunday to Tuesday in honor of the victims of the fire, which continues to burn as 1,600 firefighters along with police and military personnel work to stop it.

The blaze lights up the sky near Bouca, in central Portugal.

The expanse of wooded hills in the area north of Lisbon, which 24 hours before had glowed bright green with eucalyptus plants and pine trees, was gutted by the flames.

"The smoke cloud is very low, which does not allow helicopters and fire planes to work efficiently. but we're doing everything possible and impossible to put out this fire", Gomes said, adding that no villages were now at risk.

"I express my closeness to the beloved people of Portugal following the devastating fire", Francis said. "At 3.30am, my mother-in-law woke me up quickly and we never went to sleep again".

Spanish state television showed terrifying images from Portugal of several people on a road trying to escape the intense smoke that had reduced visibility to a question of a few metres. A young man shared a bottle of water with a distraught woman as she stumbled down the road.

Nearly 24 hours after the deaths Saturday night, fires were still churning across the forested hillsides of central Portugal.

Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes said 59 people died from the flames and suffocating smoke, while another two people died in a traffic accident related to the fires. No information was immediately given on how the others were killed.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa on Sunday called the disaster "the biggest tragedy of human life that we have known in years". The media in Portugal report that the fire is out of control, even though 600 firefighters are fighting to extinguish it.

The European Commission's aid chief, Christos Stylianides, said in a statement that "all will be done to assist the authorities and people of Portugal at this time of need". France has offered three planes and Spain has sent two, authorities said. France was also sending three aircraft. "Deepest condolences to the Portugese people on this tragedy", Prime Minister Modi tweeted. "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".

French President Emmanuel Macron said in a Twitter message: "Solidarity with Portugal, hit by bad fires".

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