Portuguese radio says 25 people killed in forest fires

A man on the balcony of a house looks up at a forest fire raging on a hillside above the village of Avelar central Portugal before sunrise Sunday

A man on the balcony of a house looks up at a forest fire raging on a hillside above the village of Avelar central Portugal before sunrise Sunday

The fire, which has yet to be controlled, is already one of the deadliest forest fires in Portugal in decades.

Local town hall chief Valdemar Alves, speaking shortly before the death toll was made official, said there were villages which were "completely surrounded by flames and in great danger". "I am complete stunned by the number of deaths".

Thirty bodies were found inside cars and nearly 20 more were found next to vehicles, Portuguese officials said.

Fourteen civilians were injured, 10 of them seriously, along with six firefighters, he added.

Around 600 firefighters were trying to put out the fires, which started on Saturday.

Televised images showed a huge wall of thick smoke and bright red flames towering over the top of trees near houses in the wooded region.

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

"At 3.30 am, my mother-in-law woke me up quickly and we never went to sleep again".

"We're doing everything we can to see if we can mobilise fire crews from Lisbon".

Alongside 62 confirmed dead, another 54 people have been injured and taken to hospitals. A young man shared a bottle of water with a distraught woman as she stumbled down the road. Three victims are also thought to have died from smoke inhalation near a graveyard.

As Alison Roberts reports from Lisbon for our Newscast unit, officials believe a lightning strike is likely to blame for the Pedrogão Grande fire, and they have ruled out a criminal cause.

The EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides expressed his condolences for the victims in a statement, saying the "EU is fully ready to help".

In Kazan, Russia, Portugal's national soccer team wore black arm bands and stood for a moment of silence with the Mexican team in solidarity with the forest fire victims.

The source of the fire, which broke out at around 2pm local time on Saturday, is so far unknown, but will be determined "in due course", PM Costa added.

The fire broke out on Saturday in the municipality of Pedrogao Grande in central Portugal, before spreading fast across several fronts.

The European Union has activated its civil protection efforts to help Portugal fight forest fires that have killed at least 43 people.

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

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy offered support to neighbouring Portugal, tweeting that he was "overwhelmed by the tragedy" and that the Portuguese people could "count on our solidarity, support and care".

"Many cars could not get out, and people burned to death inside their cars", Jorge Gomes, Portuguese secretary of state of internal administration, told CNN affiliate TVI.

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