Raging forest fires in central Portugal. have killed at least 43 people, most of whom burnt to death in their cars, and injured scores of others, the government said on Sunday.
The blazes sparked by arsonists have been fanned by strong winds from Hurricane Ophelia. Nearly 600 firefighters and 160 vehicles were dispatched late Saturday to tackle the blaze, which broke out in the afternoon in the municipality of Pedrogao Grande, before spreading fast across several fronts.
Some 60 forest fires broke out across the country during the night, with around 1,700 firefighters battling to put them out. Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes said 43 people burned to death, mostly trapped in their cars engulfed by flames in the Leiria region. At least 59 were injured.
The flames spread “with great violence”, moving out on four fronts, Gomes said. “It is difficult to say if they were fleeing the flames or were taken by surprise.” Dry thunderstorms could have been the cause of the fatal blaze, according to the prime minister.
A number of villages were affected by the main fire and evacuation procedures had been put in place for some of them, Costa added. Officials were not immediately able to comment on the extent of the damage.
Dozens of people who fled their homes were taken in by residents of the nearby municipality of Ansiao.
Source: News agencies