Portugal in mourning as fight against fire goes on

Ms Anabela Silva standing in front of her house and her burnt car in Figueiro dos Vinhos on Sunday after the wildfire in central Portugal killed at least 62, many of them burning to death in their cars. The blaze broke out on Saturday afternoon in th
Ms Anabela Silva standing in front of her house and her burnt car in Figueiro dos Vinhos on Sunday after the wildfire in central Portugal killed at least 62, many of them burning to death in their cars. The blaze broke out on Saturday afternoon in the municipality of Pedrogao Grande before spreading fast across several fronts.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LISBON • Portugal has declared three days of national mourning after a forest fire triggered by thunderstorms in the north of the country killed more than 60 people, many of them fleeing in their cars.

More than 1,000 firefighters were yesterday still battling a giant forest fire that swept through central Portugal at the weekend, killing at least 62 people.

It was the country's deadliest such disaster in its recent history, with many victims burnt as they were trapped in their cars around the epicentre in Pedrogao Grande.

"Portugal weeps for Pedrogao Grande," said the I newspaper, while mainstream Publico's headline simply read "Why?"

"The fire has reached a level of human tragedy that we have never seen before," said a visibly moved Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who announced the national mourning.

Portugal's national route 236 was transformed into a road of hell as the ferocious blaze ripped through the wooded countryside.

  • 62

    Number of people found dead so far in forest fire that swept through central Portugal at the weekend.

    1,000

    Firefighters still battling a huge forest fire yesterday.

Although the searing temperatures had dropped slightly yesterday, the fire was still raging, spreading to neighbouring regions of Castelo Branco and Coimbra.

Firefighters were continuing a grim search for bodies, with Mr Costa warning on Sunday that the death toll could still rise.

"Our pain is immense," said Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. "We feel a sense of injustice because the tragedy has hit those Portuguese of whom one speaks little - those living in an isolated rural zone."

Police chief Almeida Rodrigues blamed dry thunderstorms for the blaze, which broke out on Saturday in Pedrogao Grande, saying a tree had been struck by lightning.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2017, with the headline 'Portugal in mourning as fight against fire goes on'. Print Edition | Subscribe