Portuguese radio says 25 people killed in forest fires


At least 57 people have been killed and several injured in raging forest fires in central Portugal.

Of the victims, 59 people were killed from flames or smoke inhalation and two more were killed in a road accident trying to flee the blaze, according the spokesperson Aicha El Hammar.

Several hundred firefighters and 160 vehicles were dispatched to tackle the fire.

Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes said 30 people were founded dead inside inside cars, and another 17 next to the vehicles on one road leading to the IC8 motorway. Dry thunderstorms are one of the possible causes of the fires.

The cause of the rapidly spreading wildfires is now unknown, although officials cited by the Times suggest recent dry thunderstorms, in which there's lightning but no rainfall.

Greece's prime minister has offered his Portuguese colleague Antonio Costa help in fighting the deadly wildfires in his country.

Portugal has declared three days of mourning in response to the tragedy, the New York Times reported.

"This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we can not remember a tragedy of these proportions", Valdemar Alves, the mayor of Pedrógão Grande, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

"The smoke cloud is very low, which does not allow helicopters and fire planes to work efficiently ... but we're doing everything possible and impossible to put out this fire", Gomes said, adding that no villages were now at risk.

Pedrogao Grande mayor Valdemar Alves said he was "completely stunned by the number of deaths".

Thirty bodies were found inside cars and nearly 20 more were found next to vehicles, Portuguese officials said. Spain has sent firefighting aircraft in order to assist in the efforts to put out the fires.

The country was hit by a series of fires previous year which devastated more than 100,000 hectares (1,000 square kilometres) of the mainland.

Pope Francis has led thousands of people in a moment of silent prayer for the victims of the Portugal fire. In August of past year, the island of Madeira was devastated by a fire that killed three people and more than a thousand had to be evacuated from their homes.

The European Union said it would provide firefighting planes following a request from Lisbon. "It is an authentic inferno, we have never seen anything like that".

President Marcelo Rebelo went to the Leiria region to meet families of the victims, "sharing their pain in the name of all the Portuguese people", he said.