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Portugal declares three-day national mourning for victims of deadly forest fires

Police chief Almeida Rodrigues blamed dry thunderstorms, ruling out arson and saying a tree had been struck by lightning. In it, falling rain evaporates before reaching the ground because of high temperatures, but lightning from the high cumulonimbus clouds reaches the ground.The forest fires happened amid severe heatwave with temperatures reaching 40 °C in some areas of the country over the past days.A burnt truck next to a gate in the village of Pobrais, near Pedrogao Grande, central Portugal, Monday, June 19 2017.”The number of fatalities could still rise”, he said at the Civil Protection headquarters near Lisbon.”Something extraordinary has taken place and we have to wait for technicians to properly determine its causes”.Almost 900 firefighters and 300 vehicles were still battling the blaze on Sunday afternoon as scenes of devastation could be seen around the town.Villagers look at flames during a wildfire near the village of Mega Fundeira on 18 June, 2017.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. “I thought the end of the world had come”, said Maria de Fatima Nunes, another survivor. “(It was) just flames over the auto and the family and me screaming”.Image Below:Aerial view of a forest fire is seen from the cabin of a Spanish fire fighting plane near Pedrogao Grande, Portugal, June 18, 2017.While he knows the area well, he said, “we’ve got tourists and others who probably had no idea where they were going”.Eventually the fire passed and we emerged to see the smouldering remains of the village.Valdemar Alves, the mayor of Pedrogao Grande, said the region “cannot remember a tragedy of these proportions”.Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes said 59 people died from the flames and suffocating smoke, while another two people died in a traffic accident related to the fires.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.Gomes gave a grim description of the deaths to RTP.Many people have burned to death in their cars and on the road after becoming trapped by the flames on the road between Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera.A massive #Forest Fire claimed sixty-two lives and more than fifty people were injured in the forested region of Pedrógão Grande, which is about 200 km away from the Portuguese capital Lisbon.An out-of-control forest fire in central Portugal has killed at least 58 people and injured 54, according to updated figures provided on Sunday by the government.Costa tweeted his “deepest regret for the victims. and a word of encouragement and strength for all who help combat this scourge”. He says “the family got out and they were kissing the vehicle”.