Portuguese radio says 25 people killed in forest fires

Firefighter file image

Firefighter file image

Many died while trying to flee the area, 50 km south-east of Coimbra city, in their cars, the BBC quoted government officials as saying.

The blaze on Saturday hit the mountainous area of Pedrogao Grande, 200km southeast of Lisbon, amid an intense heat wave and strong winds that fanned the fire later in the day.

The death toll could rise further, he said.

TRT World'sNafisa Latic has more.

However, since that report, AP has tweeted the latest figures as reaching 62 dead, as Portugal announces three days of mourning in the country. The European Union is also reportedly organizing an global relief and firefighting effort.

In the large-scale forest fires in Central Portugal, 43 people were killed. "We pray in silence", the Pope said.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa described the fire as the "the biggest tragedy" the country has experienced in years.

Neighboring Spain has sent planes to help attack the fire from the air, according to BBC News. "The Portuguese people can count on our solidarity, support and care".

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Media in Portugal said the fire is no closer to being contained despite about 600 firefighters working to put them out.

Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes has told state broadcaster RTP that the number of victims from the flames and suffocating smoke has reached 60, while another two people perished in a traffic accident related to the fires.

Six firefighters have been seriously injured while fighting the forest fire, with two missing.

The flames spread "with great violence", moving out on four fronts, he said.

A number of villages were affected by the main fire and evacuation procedures had been put in place for some of them, Costa added.

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

Resident Isabel Brandao told The Associated Press that she had feared for her life when she saw the blaze. "The problem is that there was no rain. If it had rained, this would not happen". "I never thought it would come to this side", she said. "The priority now is to get the ongoing fire under control-after that we must understand what happened", he said. Gomes said most of the victims were caught in their vehicles on the road.

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