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43 dead in central Portugal forest fires

43 dead in central Portugal forest fires”

Many of those killed died while trapped in their cars as huge flames swept over a road amid intense fires Prime Minister Antonio Costa described as the "the biggest tragedy" the country has experienced in years.

Portuguese radio station TSF, citing the Interior Ministry, said 25 people had been killed in blazes in the Pedrogao Grande area, about 150 kilometres north east of Lisbon.

The government also says that 360 soldiers are joining the 700 firefighters struggling to put out the blaze that started on Saturday.

He said at least 30 people died inside their cars as they tried to flee between the towns of Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera.

Almost 60 other people were injured, including four firefighters and a seriously injured minor, public broadcaster RTP reported, citing Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes. Fourteen of the injured were in a serious condition. According to officials, most of the victims died in their cars along a single road as they attempted to escape.

A dry thunderstorm is a storm with thunder and lightning, with most or all the rain evaporating before reaching the ground.

Valdemar Alves, mayor of Pedrogao Grande, said: "This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we can not remember a tragedy of these proportions".

The tragedy is the worst in recent memory in the southern European country, which often suffers wildfires during the hot and dry summer months. "I am shocked with this death toll". France was also sending three aircraft.

The official also said that firefighting crews were having difficulties in battling the fire, which was "very violent" in at least two of its four fronts.

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

More than 50 fires are said to be burning across the country involving about 2,000 firefighters after intense heat combined with strong winds to fan the flames.

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

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted that he is "overwhelmed by the tragedy at Pedrogao Grande".

"Many cars could not get out and people burned to death inside their cars", Portuguese Interior Minister Jorge Gomes told CNN affiliate TVI.



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