Thursday, 21 February, 2019

Pope calls for prayer as 62 die in wildfires in central Portugal

Forest fires rip through central Portugal on Saturday Forest fires rip through central Portugal on Saturday
Melinda Barton | 25 June, 2017, 04:24

The deaths, the most in memory caused by forest fires in Portugal, have shown shortcomings in communication systems to evacuate people from villages.

Police investigators stand by a burnt vehicle on the road between Castanheira de Pera and Figueiro dos Vinhos, central Portugal, Sunday, June 18 2017. Pedrogao Grand is about 120 miles north of Lisbon. The region has endured long months of drought and heatwaves - with temperatures sometimes reaching over 40 degrees Celsius in some areas. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.

Twelve people survived one of Portugal's deadliest fires by seeking refuge in a water tank after access to their village was cut off by the blaze. But critics say numerous reforms have not to come into force or fall short of what is required.

To date, 18 people have been taken to hospitals in Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra, five of them - four firefighters and a child - seriously injured.

Three days of mourning have been declared in Portugal. She pointed out that a government forest fire prevention report 10 years ago was deemed to be too ambitious and many of its recommendations ignored. Police are searching charred areas of the forest and isolated homes for more bodies.

Close to 100 forest fires continued to rage across Portugal Sunday night, with over 2,000 firefighters working to bring them under control.

The country's Civil Protection department said that the battle against the flames is still very hard in the Pedrogao Grande, where 1,100 soldiers and firefighters are working with hundreds of vehicles and dozens of aircraft.

Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes said 57 people burned to death, mostly trapped in their cars engulfed by flames in the Leiria region. Few of the hundreds of firefighters were also injured while tackling the fire.

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.

Fire experts are hoping adopting Australian-style warning systems may prevent future catastrophes after the most devastating blaze in decades left 62 people dead in Portugal.

"We were afraid the fire would reach us".

The official also said that firefighting crews were having difficulties in battling the fire, which was "very violent" in at least two of its four fronts. As a result, Spain sent four firefighting aircrafts on Sunday.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: "Solidarity with Portugal, hit by awful fires".

Sources from Portugal's Judicial Police said that the likely cause of the fire was a bolt of lightning that struck a dry tree in the heavily-forested area. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted that he was "overwhelmed by the tragedy at Pedrogao Grande". Sousa also spoke to the people caught in the tragedy praising them of the human warmth and solidarity that they displayed.

Fires on the tourist island of Madeira in August killed three people, while over the course of 2016 around 40 homes were destroyed and 5,400 hectares of land burned.