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20 Junio, 2017, 19:08
Deadly forest fires in Portugal have killed 43 people, most of whom were trapped in their cars.
Some 600 firefighters were trying to put out the fires, which started Saturday.
Jorge Gomes, secretary of state for the interior, said that 16 of the casualties had been killed when their cars were engulfed by flames as they drove along a local road.
Public broadcaster RTP said there were about 20 injured, including six firefighters.
"This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we can not remember a tragedy of these proportions", Valdemar Alves, the mayor of Pedrógão Grande, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press agency. He referred to the "devastating fire" at the end of his Sunday prayer, delivered from his studio window overlooking St Peter's Square in the Vatican. He said authorities were anxious about strong winds that could help spread the blaze further.
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Nearly 24 hours after the deaths on Saturday night, fires were still churning across the forested hillsides of central Portugal.
Maria do Céu Silva has been hailed as a hero after using her house's water tank to rescue the residents of Nodeirinho, next to the IC8 motorway, which was badly hit by the fire.
"Those are places I've visited in the past, and to see the images of the roads covered by fire with all those cars, it's really awful", said Silva, who has lived in Toronto for the past 14 years.
Portugal's prime minister said the death toll could rise as firefighters inspected charred remains of some buildings in remote villages.
The forest fires happened amid severe heatwave with temperatures reaching 40 °C in some areas of the country over the past days.
A Spanish firefighting aircraft is assisting and another is expected to arrive later on Sunday, while France is also sending three aircraft. "I am complete stunned by the number of deaths".
"Winds should not be much of an issue [as Saturday], but that does not mean localized wind issues could occur, especially around the fire", Roys said.
"We escaped in time, me on the tractor and he with our van", Luisilda said. Some local residents said they had been without the support of firefighters for hours as their homes burned.
Costa tweeted his "deepest regret for the victims. and a word of encouragement and strength for all who help combat this scourge". The ministry would not release the person's name out of respect for the family.
Cathelijne Stoof, an environmental science professor at the Netherlands' Wageningen University, said Portugal's wildfire problems stem basically from the gradual depopulation of rural areas in recent decades, leaving fewer people caring for forest areas and the countryside in general.
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