Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

More than 20 dead from forest fires in central Portugal

More than 20 dead from forest fires in central Portugal

Last August, an outbreak of fires across Portugal killed four people, including three on the island of Madeira, and destroyed huge areas of forest.

In Nodeirinho, close to Pedrogao Grande, villagers said a family got caught in "a tornado of flames" as they tried to flee in their auto.

Authorities said 47 people died when they were caught in the fire as they drove along a road in dense woodland between Figueiro Dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera.

PM Costa said that the fire fighting crews are having difficulty approaching the area because the fires are "very intense".

Six of those injured are understood to be firefighters.

"Solidarity with Portugal, hit by bad fires".

Wildfires in Portugal are not rare, with an August 2016 fire on the island of Madeira killing three.

Mariano Rajoy has tweeted that he is "overwhelmed by the tragedy at Pedrogao Grande".

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

He added that Portuguese authorities are working on identifying the victims, and Spanish rescuers are assisting in efforts to control the blazes.

Local resident Isabel Brandao said that she had feared for her life.

Thirty bodies were found inside cars and nearly 20 more were found next to vehicles, Portuguese officials said. "If it had rained, this would not happen".

He said it was thought to have been sparked by a lightning strike. There were 156 fires on Saturday, he said.

He earlier said 30 bodies were found inside cars, with another 17 next to the vehicles, on one road leading on to the IC8 motorway.

A stream in Penela reflects the wildfire raging in central Portugal on Sunday.

The government sent two army battalions to help the emergency services in the Pedrogao Grande area, some 200 km northeast of Lisbon, and the European Union said it would provide firefighting aircraft.

This item has been corrected to show that Jorge Gomes is an Interior Ministry official, not interior minister.

In August of previous year, the island of Madeira was devastated by a fire that killed three people and more than a thousand had to be evacuated from their homes.

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