43 killed in Portugal forest fires

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Lisbon, June 18 (IANS) At least 43 persons were killed and 59 others injured in a catastrophic forest fire in Portugal’s Pedrogao Grande area, the media reported on Sunday.

Many died while trying to flee the area, 50 km south-east of Coimbra city, in their cars, the BBC quoted government officials as saying.

Several firefighters are among the 59 injured, the officials said.

“Unfortunately this seems to be the greatest tragedy we have seen in recent years in terms of forest fires,” said Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

The deaths could rise further, Costa added.

Local media said the fire is no closer to being contained.

About 60 forest fires broke out across the country on Saturday night, with close to 1,700 firefighters battling them across Portugal, reports the BBC.

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The flames spread “with great violence” on four fronts near Pedrogao Grande, Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes said.

Spain has sent two water-bombing planes to help tackle the fires.

It is not yet known what caused the fire, however Prime Minister Costa said thunderstorms could have been one possible reason.



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