At least 19 killed in Portugal forest fire 

18 Jun

At least 19 people have died in a wildfire in central Portugal on Saturday, most of them trapped in their cars by flames as treacherous wind drove the blaze beyond firefighters’ control.

With the death toll set to rise and the blaze still raging in the wooded mountain area of Pedrogão Grande, south of Coimbra, the Portuguese government announced late on Saturday night that the confirmed victims were all members of the public. There are fears for two firefighters who are missing while four of their colleagues are described as being in a serious condition in hospital.

Jorge Gomes, secretary of state for the interior, said that 16 of the casualties had been killed when their cars were engulfed by flames as they drove along a local road. The other three deaths were from smoke inhalation, the official said, adding that 21 people were being treated for injuries.

The fire, the cause of which remains unknown, started at around 2pm on Saturday. Some roads were closed as the wildfire spread out of control, destroying several fire engines. At midnight, more than 500 firefighters continued to battle the blaze.

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