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Dozens killed in Portugal forest fires

Dozens killed in Portugal forest fires”

A huge forest fire raging since Saturday in central Portugal has killed at least 62 people, the government said on Sunday, in what is possibly the deadliest-ever forest blaze in the Atlantic coastal country, used to the woods burning nearly every summer.

Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes said 22 people burned to death in their cars when they found themselves trapped by flames on the road between Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera.

Gomes says 54 people have also been injured, 5 of them seriously, including four firefighters and a minor.

Several firefighters are among the 59 people injured and three days of national mourning have now been declared.

"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.

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.

"It is an authentic inferno, we have never seen anything like that", the mayor of Pedrogao Grande Valdemar Alves told reporters. "I am shocked with this death toll".

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, June 18, 2017. 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".

A Spanish firefighting aircraft is assisting and another is expected to arrive later on Sunday, while France is also sending three aircraft.

Many victims were killed when their cars were engulfed by flames as they swept across a country road near the town of Pedrogao Grande.

Some 700 firefighters have been working to tackle the flames since Saturday.

Greece's prime minister has offered his Portuguese colleague Antonio Costa help in fighting the deadly wildfires in his country.

A forest fire is seen near Bouca, in central Portugal, June 18, 2017.

"We are most likely facing the biggest tragedy of human life that we have known", he said.

Temperatures in the area have hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in recent days.

"Overwhelmed by the tragedy of Pedrogao Grande".

President Marcelo Rebelo went to the Leiria region to meet families of the victims, "sharing their pain in the name of all the Portuguese people", he said.

Many world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Pope Francis and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have expressed solidarity with Portugal.



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