‘Portugal weeps’ as deadly for­est fire rages

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

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)

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