A wildfire spreading throughout central Portugal has killed at least 61 people and injured at least 54, CNN reports. With officials calling it “the greatest wildfire tragedy of recent years,” the fire’s injured victims include eight firefighters and a young child. The mass destruction led to the government’s decision to establish three days of national mourning. As of Sunday, firefighters are still trying to suppress the flames.
“We have been able to determine that the origin of the fire was caused by dry thunderstorms,” said the head of Portugal’s judiciary police, Jose Maria Almeida Rodrigues.
When the fire reached the municipality Pedrógão Grande, people tried to flee the flames, and some were caught by the flames while leaving in their cars. According to officials, the fire prevented cars from escaping and “people burned to death inside their cars.” The New York Times reports that at least 30 people died in their cars while traveling through a forested area.
Because of the fire’s range, the area is suffering from a lack of firefighters, despite the astonishing numbers of professionals reporting for duty. According to the Times, approximately 1,600 firefighters are responding to five fires in different areas, while at least 900 are stationed in Pedrógão Grande.
Without a clear end to the fires in sight, other European countries have come to Portugal’s aid. While Spain has sent two planes to assist firefighters, Christos Stylianides, the European Union Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, announced, “The EU stands in solidarity with Portugal to help it fight fires in the country…Our thoughts are with all those affected and with the first responders who are doing their best to battle the fires.”
We’re keeping these victims and their families in mind, along with all of those still trying to escape the fires.