Forest fires in Portugal have claimed the lives of at least 39 people and injured 20 more. Officials in the southern European country said that many of the victims of the fires, which spread to the city of Pedrogao Grande, were caught by the blaze as they attempted to escape in their cars. Pedrogao Grande is approximately 120 miles from the country’s capital, Lisbon.
CNN reported that Portuguese Interior Minister Jorge Gomes stated that many people were trapped in their cars as they tried to flee and were burned to death. According to Digital Journal, 22 of the victims of Saturday’s wildfires in Portugal burned to death in their cars. Smoke inhalation was the cause of death of at least three of the victims.
On Saturday, 160 vehicles and several hundred firefighters were dispatched to combat the fires. In several regions of the country, temperatures exceeded 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Reports say that some 60 fires broke out across Portugal.
According to the BBC News, the government of Portugal said that Pedrogao Grande is located 30 miles south-east of Coimbra. Among the 20 injured in the fires were several firefighters.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa said the forest fires on Saturday that claimed the lives of at least 25 people have resulted in the “greatest tragedy” Portugal has seen, due to wildfires, in recent years. The number of fatalities has increased since then to at least 39 people dead, according to ABC News. Costa said that the cause of the wildfires in Portugal might have been “dry thunderstorms.”
Costa stated that he would soon announce “a period of national mourning.” Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes stated the flames spread on four fronts “with great violence.”
Valdemar Alves, the president of the municipality, said the blaze “completely surrounded” some areas in Portugal. Alves stated there was an insufficient number of firefighters to combat the fires that raged through Pedrogao Grande. He added that the death toll from the wildfires “shocked” him.
Authorities in Portugal have stated that the death toll might increase as the villages affected by the wildfires get inspected by firefighters. Wildfire alerts were issued on Friday by Portugal’s National Authority for Public Safety because of the strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures the country was facing. Authorities do not know what, or who, caused the fire.
Officials in Portugal said that on Saturday, wildfires raging through the country killed at least 39 people and injured 20, some of them the very firefighters who were fighting the wildfires. In 2016, Portugal saw at least 12 large wildfires that firefighters combatted. On Portugal’s island of Madiera, more than 1,000 were forced to evacuate and three people died.
By John Samuels
Photo Courtesy Twitter