61 killed in forest fire in Portugal

Firefighters battle the fire PHOTO COURTESY

61 people have been confirmed dead in a forest fire in central Portugal with more than 54 injured.

The fire started in the Pedrógão Grande area of Central Portugal about 120 miles North East of the capital Lisbon on Saturday.

The Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa said the fire was “the greatest tragedy in recent years” .

According to Portuguese media many died as they attempted to flee from their vehicles in the densely forested area.

“Many cars could not get out and people burned to death inside their cars,” An official of the Portuguese interior Ministry Jorge Gomes told Portugal’s Televisão Independente.

Police say that the fire might have been caused by a lightning which struck a tree.

“This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we cannot remember a tragedy of these proportions,” The mayor of the region Valdemar Alves told Associated Press.

The South European country has declared 3 days of mourning.

Neighboring countries of France and Spain have already sent fire fighting planes to help put out the fire.

Newly elected French president Emmanuel Macron tweeted his condolences to the victims saying:

Solidarity with Portugal, hit by terrible fires. Our thoughts are with victims. France makes its aid available to Portugal.”

While many more including the Pope and the president of the European union have sent their condolences.

The fire comes just a few days after a fire razed down the residential tower of Grenfell   in Kensington , West of London with  58 people feared dead.