‘Portugal weeps’ as deadly forest fire rages
Villagers look at flames during a wildfire near the village of Mega Fundeira on June 18. Portugal declared three days of national mourning after the most deadly forest
fire in its recent history, raging through the centre of the country. (AFP) More than 1,000 firefighters on Monday continued to battle a giant forest fire that swept through central Portugal at the weekend, killing at least 62 people.
The country was in mourning after the deadliest such disaster in its recent history, with many victims burnt as they were trapped in their cars around the epicentre in Pedrogao Grande.
“Portugal weeps for Pedrogao Grande,” said the I newspaper while mainstream Publico’s headline simply read “Why?”
“The fire has reached a level of human tragedy that we have never seen before,” said a visibly moved Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who announced three days of mourning from Sunday.
Portugal’s national Route 236 was transformed into a road of hell as the ferocious blaze ripped through the wooded countryside.
Although the searing temperatures had dropped slightly on Monday, the fire was still raging, spreading to neighbouring regions of Castelo Branco and Coimbra.
Firefighters were also continuing a grim search for bodies, with Costa warning on Sunday that the death toll could still rise.
The international community has stepped in to help, with Spain, France and Italy sending water-bombing planes. The European Union has also offered help and Greece said it could send firefighters if needed.
“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. (AFP)