A number of people have been killed in forest fires in central Portugal, many of them trapped in their cars as flames swept over a road Saturday evening.
LISBON, Portugal (AP) More than 1,500 firefighters in Portugal are still battling to control major wildfires in the central region of the country, where one blaze killed 62 people. The blaze is thought to have been caused by a lightning that struck a tree at around 2 p.m. on the 17th in a dry thunderstorm. Between 1993 and 2013, Portugal recorded more forest fires than Spain, France, Italy or Greece, according to a report previous year by the European Environment Agency, even though it is smaller than any of those countries.
He said a key measure would be the creation of "fire-resilient communities" who receive instructions on what to do when faced with a wildfire and don't act rashly.
The fire, which began on Saturday afternoon, ignited in the municipality of Pedrogao Grande in Leiria, a huge plain with small villages crisscrossed by several national roads.
Gomes also said that eight firefighters were among the injured - four of them in serious condition. The European Union has also offered to help.
One resident of Pedrogao Grande told broadcaster RTP she had "not seen a single fireman" as the flames approached her house during the night.
The forest fires happened amid severe heatwave with temperatures reaching 40 °C in some areas of the country over the past days. A young man shared a bottle of water with a distraught woman as she stumbled down the road.
A Firefighter battles with a fire in Pampilhosa da Serra, central of Portugal.More news: Number of global displaced up to 65.6 million last year
"The dimension of this fire was such that we don't have memory of such a human tragedy", Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in Pedrogao Grande, a mountainous region about 200km northeast of Lisbon on Sunday.
At least 30 people died in vehicles, with more bodies found near cars on the side of a road and others in rural areas near Pedrogao Grande, Secretary of State for Internal Administration Jorge Gomes said in comments broadcast Sunday by RTP. Government officials said an assessment will be made of the cause.
Hundreds of firefighters are on the scene, but intense heat and strong winds have made it extremely hard to contain the blaze. Christos Stylianides, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, promised full support for the country during this tragic period. France was also sending three aircraft.
Foreign Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: "Horrified to hear of tragic loss of life in Portugal fires".
Statistics show that 35 per cent of Portugal is covered by woodland.
"I express my closeness to the beloved people of Portugal following the devastating fire", Francis said. No need to remember your password or log in, just click.
Just a few kilometres away, near Avelar, smoke was rising from a forest of pine and eucalyptus, as helicopters flying above dropped water to isolate the fire. Citing the high temperatures, it said that all outdoor fires were prohibited.