62 die in forest fire still raging in Portugal

Portuguese firefighters work to stop a forest fire from reaching the village of Figueiro dos Vinhos central Portugal, Sunday, June 18, 2017.More than 2,000 firefighters in Portugal battled Monday to contain major wildfires in the central region of the country, where one blaze killed 62 people, while authorities came under mounting criticism for not doing more to prevent the tragedy.The government declared three days of mourning and sent two army battalions to help the emergency services. The government said that almost 600 firefighters and 160 vehicles were dispatched late yesterday to tackle the blaze, which broke out in the afternoon in the municipality of Pedrogao Grande, about 50 kilometres from Coimbra, before spreading fast across several fronts.Portugal was sweltering under a severe heatwave Saturday, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in several regions. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.Another 54 people have been injured, including four firefighters and a child with serious injuries. At least 18 people died on the N-236, a road linking Figueiro dos Vinhos to Castanheira de Pera, according to Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes.A lightning strike was believed to have sparked the blaze Saturday.”It’s the greatest tragedy of human lives that we’ve seen with forest fires in Portugal in the last few years”, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said overnight in comments broadcast by television channel SIC Noticias.Yesterday afternoon, almost 900 firefighters and 300 vehicles were still battling the blaze while scenes of devastation could be seen around the town.More than 350 soldiers Sunday joined the 700 firefighters who have been working to put out the blaze, schools in the area were closed until further notice and outdoor fires were banned.”This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we can not remember a tragedy of these proportions”, said the municipality’s mayor, Valdemar Alves, according to The AP.However, some of the wildfires are still racing through inaccessible parts of hill ranges about 150 kilometers (95 miles) northeast of Lisbon. One man told of his narrow escape: “I went out completely in the middle of the flames, to get out of the house”.He added that firefighting crews are having difficulties battling the flames, which are “very violent” in at least two of the four fronts.Mr Costa also tweeted his “deepest regret for the victims. and a word of encouragement and strength for all who help combat this scourge”.In a statement, the European Commission said they could provide aircraft, while Spain and France also offered aircraft.Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted that he was “overwhelmed by the tragedy at Pedrogao Grande”.