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    Exclamation 2017 Wildfires

    Dozens of people lose their lives with many being incinerated to death...

    Deadliest ever forest fire blazes through central Portugal, dozens burnt to death as firefighters battle fiery flames
    Sunday 18th June, 2017 -- A forest fire, that is being described as the deadliest ever single forest to rage through Portugal, led to dozens of people losing their lives and many being incinerated to death.
    Jorge Gomes, the secretary of state for internal affairs said that the devastating forest blaze that broke out in central Portugal on Saturday has left 58 people dead with 18 of them being 'incinerated' while they were trapped in their cars as flames swept over a road between the towns of Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera - an inland area with many hotels and holiday resorts. In addition, 59 people were injured and many people still remain missing as homes are wrecked due to the inferno about 150 kilometers (95 miles) northeast of Lisbon. Gomes added that three others died from smoke inhalation in Figueiro dos Vinhos.

    Meanwhile, describing the blaze as “the biggest tragedy,” the Portuguese prime minister, António Costa said, “We are facing the greatest tragedy of human victims of recent times by a disaster of this type.” Reports stated that the fire, that broke out as the country witnesses temperatures of up to 40C, is possibly the deadliest ever single forest blaze to hit Portugal. Authorities claimed that over 600 firefighters were battling the flames and were helped by Spanish rescuers as teams of psychologists were deployed to care for survivors, who are 'in shock' and have lost relatives. Firemen are currently battling the blaze on four different fronts, fanned by the heat and wind.

    On Sunday morning, emergency services described the “horrible scenario” and described the blaze as “almost impossible to control.” The head of the national judicial police told Portuguese media that a lightning strike is believed to have sparked the blaze in the Pedrogao Grande area after investigators found a tree that was hit during a 'dry thunderstorm.’ With many people still missing, authorities fear that the death toll might rise further. Officials also noted that several roads of the Pedrogao Grande area, 50 km (30 miles) south-east of Coimbra, which is a UNESCO world heritage site and university town popular with tourists and international students, have been cut off.

    Valdemar Alves, mayor of Pedrogao Grande said, “This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we cannot remember a tragedy of these proportions. I am completely stunned by the number of deaths.” Further, authorities in central Portugal believe that dry thunderstorms, that are triggered when falling water evaporates before reaching the ground because of high temperatures, are responsible for fueling the fire. The Prime Minister meanwhile said that firefighting crews were having difficulties in approaching the area because the fire was “very intense.” He added that Portuguese authorities were working on identifying the victims and that Spanish rescuers would assist in efforts to control the blazes. Like most southern European countries, Portugal is prone to forest fires in the dry summer months.

    See also:

    Portugal awaits foreign help to fight deadly wildfires
    Monday 19th June, 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.
    Reinforcements, including more water-dropping planes from Spain, France and Italy, were due to arrive as part of a European Union cooperation program, officials said. Portugal is observing three days of national mourning after the deaths Saturday night around the town of Pedrogao Grande, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Lisbon, which is by far the deadliest on record. Scorching weather, with temperatures surpassing 40 C (104 F), as well as strong winds and dry woodland after weeks with little rain fueled the blazes. The fire area is covered in dense woodland over steep hills.

    Meanwhile, Portugal's leading environmental lobby group, Quercus, issued a statement Monday blaming the blazes on "forest management errors and bad political decisions" by governments over recent decades. The association rebuked authorities for allowing the planting of huge swathes of eucalyptus , the country's most common and most profitable species - but one that's often blamed for stoking blazes. Quercus also said official bodies don't do enough to coordinate wildfire prevention. Emergency services have been criticized for not closing a road where 47 of the deaths occurred as people fled the flames Saturday night. The government has acknowledged that the huge fires occasionally led to a breakdown in communications.

    Portuguese firefighters work to stop a forest fire from reaching the village of Figueiro dos Vinhos central Portugal, Sunday, June 18, 2017. Portugal's president says the country's pain "knows no end" as it mourns at least 61 people killed in the deadliest wildfire in memory.

    Wildfires are an annual scourge in Portugal. Between 1993 and 2013, Portugal recorded the highest annual number of forest fires in southern Europe, including Spain, France, Italy and Greece, according to a report last year by the European Environment Agency, even though it is the smallest of those countries.

    The government announced a raft of new measures against wildfires in March. They included restrictions on eucalyptus plantations and a simplified and cheaper program of property registration that seeks to ascertain which land is being neglected. Not all of those reforms have come into legal force yet. Statistics show that 35 percent of Portugal is covered by woodland, slightly above the 28-nation European Union average of 31 percent. The forest industry, especially the production of paper pulp, accounts for around 3 percent of GDP.

    Portugal forest fires: Three days of mourning for 62 victims
    Sun, 18 Jun 2017 : Many were burned to death in their cars as they tried to flee the fires in central Portugal.
    Portugal has declared three days of mourning for the 62 victims of one of the country's deadliest forest fires. Four children are among the victims, many of whom were found dead inside their cars as they tried to flee the central forested region of Pedrógão Grande. Hundreds of firefighters are continuing to tackle the blaze on several fronts. Prime Minister Antonio Costa called it "the greatest tragedy we have seen in recent years in terms of forest fires". He said it was thought to have been sparked by a lightning strike.

    The wildfires spread fast on Saturday, and across several fronts

    Four firefighters are among the 54 people injured in the fire, which is raging in several parts of a mountainous area some 200km north-east of the capital Lisbon. There are fears the death toll could rise, as a number of people are still missing. The period of national mourning ends on Tuesday.

    Bodies found inside cars

    Emergency service workers were battling 156 fires across the country on Sunday, Prime Minister Costa said, adding that most of the victims had died in just one of them. Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes said that most had died from smoke inhalation and burns, while two were killed in a road accident related to the fires. Thirty bodies were found inside cars, with another 17 next to the vehicles, on one road leading on to the IC8 motorway. Another 11 died in a village next to the motorway.

    More than 1,600 firefighters are fighting five of the main fires, supported by about 400 vehicles and 18 aircraft, Portugal's Público reports. According to the prime minister, just 11 fires are still active but he said the authorities were "particularly worried about two of them". They have sent two army battalions to help the emergency services.

    'I could have died, I should have died' - fire survivor's tale

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