Portugal gains upper hand over wildfire that killed 64

Deimos Imaging

Deimos Imaging

Emergency services in Portugal said Tuesday they were making headway in controlling a major wildfire that killed 64 people in the central area of the country, but the welcome news came as another blaze nearby grew in size and amid reports that a water-dropping plane had crashed.

Half of the people killed died in their cars in road through the densely forested area between Figuerio dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera, confirms Mr. Gomes.

The latest of the victims was identified as a 40-year-old firefighter who died in hospital.

The fires in central Portugal left 62 dead, many of them inside their cars as they tried to flee. More than 130 other people have been injured.

"This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we can not remember a tragedy of these proportions", Valdemar Alves, mayor of Pedrogao Grande, told the AP.

In a press conference, Portuguese Civil Protection Agency commander, Elisio Oliveira, said that the 30 per cent remaining blaze was still a cause of concern to the authorities. He described the operation as "complex" and said many residents were being forced to evacuate.

When asked about the plan for Tuesday, he added: "It all depends on the weather". "We feel a sense of injustice because the tragedy has hit those Portuguese of whom one speaks little - those living in an isolated rural zone". Portugal's national Route 236 was transformed into "a road of hell" where 47 of the fatalities occurred as the ferocious blaze ripped through the wooded countryside. A few kilometres north of Nodeirinho, 11 people died in the village of Pobrais. A survivor spoke of the roads being blocked and of no-one coming to their aid.

"I went to see it and in five minutes the fire was about 800 metres (yards) from my house", the 66-year-old said. "The way it spread, the speed".

Twelve people survived one of Portugal's deadliest fires by seeking refuge in a water tank after access to their village was cut off by the blaze.

"There was fire at the top of the pine trees and they were falling over the cars".

"I am shocked and horrified by the many lives claimed by today's devastating fires", said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who comes from Portugal.

The area burnt is almost three times bigger than Lisbon and means the relatively small country accounts for more than a quarter of all fires in the entire European Union this year, the data showed.

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