Portugal Forest Fire costs 62 lives and fight not over yet

Cheryl Sanders
June 24, 2017

A huge forest fire raging since on Saturday in central Portugal has killed at least 62 people, the government said on Sunday, in what is possibly the deadliest-ever forest blaze in the Atlantic coastal country, used to the woods burning nearly every summer.

The fire, which has yet to be controlled, is already one of the deadliest forest fires in Portugal in decades.

The fire, which began on Saturday, also injured at least 61 others in the mountainous area of Pedrogao Grande, about 150 kilometers northeast of Lisbon.

Reporting for euronews, Filipa Soares said that no doubt the road on which many people lost their loves, their cars engulfed in the flames, will from now on be referred to as the "road of death".

"In Portugal, the main factor in the scale of wildfires is the unbroken stretches of forest", Paulo Fernandes, a forest researcher at Portugal's Tras-os-Montes e Alto Douro University, told the AP.

One road running through Pedrogao Grande was littered with burnt-out cars.

The Pedrogao Grande catastrophe is believed to have been initially caused by a dry thunderstorm, an environmental phenomenon blamed for starting wildfires worldwide. Just over 1,000 firefighters are still tackling that blaze about 90 miles (150km) north of Lisbon. Police said a lightning striking a tree probably caused the fire.

Firefighters still battling a huge forest fire yesterday.

There are over 1,600 firefighters working across Portugal to control the fire, with police and military units drafted into service to assist.

Pedrogao is by far the worst fire to hit Portugal in terms of victims. "We have even managed to find the tree that was struck by the lightning", Rodrigues said.

The fire was still not contained on Sunday evening, with one of the four fronts remaining a threat. The Portuguese Secretary of State for Internal Administration, Jorge Gomes, confirmed that over half of those killed had been trapped in their vehicles as the fire tore through the densely forested area between Figueiró dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pêra.

"It's going to be a long time until they are stopped", said Paulo Santos, commander of Portugal's national civil-protection agency. Between 1993 and 2013, Portugal recorded the highest annual number of forest fires in southern Europe, according to a report past year by the European Environment Agency. It hires aircraft from private companies or relies on the European Union's sharing program under which neighboring countries such as Spain, France and Italy send in aircraft when they can.

He and his wife, Maria Lourdes, were driving home on Saturday afternoon to their village of Troviscais from Porto when a friend called to warn them about the blaze. "I never thought it would come to this side", she said Sunday. "When I got to the village, I messaged my parents to tell them: 'I am in a village, fire is all around, this is the end, '" 36-year-old Gareth Roberts, who has lived in central Portugal for the past four years, told BBC news.

For now, an atmosphere of national tragedy and mourning stifled much of the impulse for finger-pointing. Authorities say temperatures as high as 104 Fahrenheit in the area in recent days might have also played a part in the inferno.

"We want to stop this as fast as we can".

More than 600 firefighters were still battling the flames on Sunday.

Other reports by iNewsToday