PM Modi expresses grief over loss of lives in Portugal forest fire

Forest fires are common in the the Iberian peninsula during the summer months, but today's example is particularly extreme.

"It is a real inferno, we have never seen anything like that", the mayor of Pedrogao Grande Valdemar Alves told reporters, adding that more than 20 villages had been affected.

Secretary of State for Internal Administration Joao Gomes reported that the number of deaths had increased as a result of the devastating wildfires that erupted on Saturday in the vicinity of Pedrogao Grande, a small rural town near the city of Coimbra, and remained uncontrolled due to strong winds, reports Efe.

Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes said 59 people died from the flames and suffocating smoke, while another two people perished in a traffic accident related to the fires.

Gomes also said that eight firefighters were among the injured - four of them in serious condition.

The government also says that 360 soldiers are joining the 700 firefighters struggling to put out the blaze that started on Saturday. "The flames passed within 2 or 3 kilometers of my house", said local resident Isabel Ferreira, 62.

"Yesterday we saw the fire but thought it was very far".

"We escaped in time, me on the tractor and he with our van", Luisilda said. (AP Photo/Paulo Duarte) Firefighters of the Portuguese National Republican Guard work to stop a forest fire from reaching the village of Avelar, central Portugal, at sunrise Sunday, June 18 2017. A young man shared a bottle of water with a distraught woman as she stumbled down the road.

Authorities said 47 people died when they were caught in the fire as they drove along a road in dense woodland between Figueiro Dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera. Whatever the causes are found to be, the disaster is expected to focus unremitting attention on the prevention of forest fires, a perennial problem that has faced successive Portuguese governments.

The European Union said it had activated its civil protection efforts responding to a call for assistance by Portuguese authorities. "The EU is fully ready to help".

France is sending three planes, while Spain has sent several firefighting aircraft.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed grief on the loss of lives in the forest fire in Portugal.

Portuguese Republican National Guard soldiers battle with a forest fire in Capela Sao Neitel, Alvaiazere, central Portugal, on June 18 2017. He said "the dimension of this fire has caused a human tragedy beyond any in our memory". Citing the high temperatures, it said that all outdoor fires were prohibited.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: "Solidarity with Portugal, hit by awful fires". Mariano Rajoy has tweeted that he is "overwhelmed by the tragedy at Pedrogao Grande".

  • Leroy Wright