Latest News

Portugal fire rages after 62 people killed

More than 1,000 firefighters are still battling Portugal's deadliest forest blaze after it killed at least 62 people over the weekend.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who on Sunday visited Pedrogao Grande, a mountainous area about 200km northeast of Lisbon, called it the biggest human tragedy in Portugal.

Welcome light rain that started on Monday morning brought only modest relief to the shocked population and exhausted firefighters. Water planes, including French and Spanish ones, resumed their missions after stopping overnight.

"There is still a lot of forest that can burn and the rain does not make much difference," said Rui Barreto, deputy chief firefighter at the makeshift emergency services headquarters in Pedrogao Grande as thunder rolled through the skies over the ash-covered town.

Firefighters said the weather conditions were still adverse in most areas where the flames were raging. Two army battalions were helping the emergency services.

Dozens of fire engines drove back and forth to fight the raging blaze in areas as far as 20km north of Pedrogao Grande. In a sign of help Portugal is receiving from its European neighbours, four Spanish fire engines were seen driving off from the headquarters.

At least half the victims died in their cars as they tried to flee along a local motorway while many other bodies were found next to the road, suggesting they had probably abandoned their vehicles in panic.

Despite government assurances that the first response by the emergency services was swift and adequate, many media and residents questioned the efficiency of the operation and the strategic planning in a country which is used to wooded areas burning every year.

"So what failed this Saturday? Everything, as it has failed for decades," read a headline in the daily Publico, which blamed a lack of co-ordination between services in charge of fire prevention and firefighting and poor forestry reserve planning.

Police said a lightning strike on a tree probably caused the blaze on Saturday in a region hit by an intense heat wave and dry, gusty winds, which fanned the flames.

The regional prosecutor still ordered a criminal investigation into the causes, which he said would be shelved if the police version of events is confirmed. Many forest fires in Portugal are caused by arson or carelessness.

© DPA 2017

You may also like...

BREAKING | Floodwater Rescue Carried Out At Maleny

BREAKING | Floodwater Rescue Carried Out At Maleny

A person has been dragged from flood water off a board walk at Maleny on Friday morning. Emergency crews were called to Maple Street at around...

Sunshine Coast Man Burnt Trying To Light Fire

Sunshine Coast Man Burnt Trying To Light Fire

A man's nursing facial burns after trying to light a fire at Diamond Valley. Paramedics were called to Jillian Road on Sunday night, where they found...

Smoke Haze Blanketing The Coast

Smoke Haze Blanketing The Coast

The thick smoke haze has blanketed the Sunshine Coast. It was particularly noticeable on Sunday. Some of that's caused by a small vegetation fire at...

Four missing Victorian cavers found safe

Four missing Victorian cavers found safe

Four men reported missing after failing to return from exploring caves in rural Victoria have been found.The four men, two 36-year-olds from Drouin...