Portugal close to containing wildfire that killed 64

"These last decades, we have seen a rise in the frequency of forest fires" in Portugal, more than in Mediterranean countries, he said.

Officials said that blaze was mostly contained though still burning fiercely. Emergency services in Portugal said Tuesday they were making headway in their battle to control a major wildfire that killed more than 60 people in the central region of the country.

An additional 157 were listed as injured, the emergency services said.

There have been no confirmed reports of casualties from any plane crash as the battle against the wildfire continues.

Almost 2,000 firefighters and troops are still fighting the fire, which has killed at least 64 people, and injured 135.

Portugal's Civil Protection agency said the town of Góis, some 40 km from the forest fire's epicenter in the Pedrógão Grande region was now the most unsafe zone in the area affected by the fire, Efe news reported.

He said all 13 planes hired by the agency to help fight the blazes are accounted for, but a total of 30 water-dropping aircraft are engaged in battling the blazes, some operating under bilateral agreements with the Portuguese government and others as part of a European Union cooperation agreement.

Antena 1 public radio reporter Pedro Sa Guerra says there was thick smoke over the area on Tuesday caused by the devastating wildfire in Pedrogao Grande, where 64 people died on Saturday when a blaze swept across the region.

An official at Portugal's air accident office, Maria Jose Andre, said she had been told by the civil protection agency that a Canadair plane had come down.

Police have said the fire was caused by dry lightning strikes and spread so quickly due to an unusually unsafe mix of low humidity, extremely high temperatures and powerful winds.But investigators said on Wednesday they would question the head of the country's volunteer firefighters, Jaime Marta Soares, who has said he suspects the fire had "criminal origins".

Firefighters in Portugal say they are close to bringing under control a major wildfire that killed 64 people in the central area of the country.

The death toll was raised from 63 to 64 late Monday.

Scorching weather, with temperatures surpassing 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), as well as strong winds and dry woodland after weeks with little rain are fueling the blazes.

More than 1,000 firefighters are tackling the wildfires around the town of Pedrogao Grande, where 62 people died Saturday night.

It has been dubbed the "road of death" as Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa led calls to find out why it had not been shut.

  • Joanne Flowers