Two Britons treated for burns after Portuguese forest fires

Firefighters of the Portuguese National Republican Guard work to stop a forest fire from reaching the village of Avelar central Portugal at sunrise Sunday June 18 2017. A number of people have been killed in forest fires in central Portugal many of

Raging forest fires in central Portugal killed at least 61 people, many of them dying because they were trapped in their cars when flames swept over a road.

A lightning strike is believed to have started the blaze in Pedrógao Grande, a rural area about 150 kilometres northeast of Lisbon.

Some 60 forest fires broke out across the country during the night, with around 1,700 firefighters battling to put them out.

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.

Gomes also said that eight firefighters were among the injured - four of them in serious condition.

More than 50 people were injured, five critically, including one child and four firefighters.

Speaking in the Vatican, Pope Francis, who visited Portugal last month, mentioned the victims in his weekly address: "I am close to the dear people of Portugal, hit by a devastating fire which is raging in the forests around Pedrogao Grande, causing many victims and injuries". He says "we want to send a big hug to everyone in Portugal for what they are going through, which is absolutely awful". President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa tells the New York Times that firefighters are facing a flawless storm of "temperature, wind, and zero humidity".

A forest fire is seen near Tojeira, Pedrogao Grande, in central Portugal, June 18, 2017.


Hundreds of firefighters are continuing to tackle the blaze on several fronts. Local resident Isabel Brandao told The Associated Press that she had feared for her life.

In a tweet on Sunday, Mr Costa sent his "deepest regret for the victims. and a word of encouragement and strength for all who help combat this scourge".

Portugal's civil protection agency, which coordinates firefighting efforts, issued a warning of the increased risk for forest fires in Friday.

The Portuguese government has dispatched two army battalions to assist emergency services, while Spain has sent two water-bombing planes to help its neighbour fight the fires.

"We express our condolences to those that have lost loved ones", said Christos Stylianides of the European Commission.

"The priority now is to save those people who could still be in danger". It is an authentic inferno, we have never seen anything like that.

Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes has been quoted as giving the new figure on public broadcaster RTP.

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

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