Share this post:

The Portuguese government declared three days of national mourning beginning Sunday, June 18, as the death toll in the country’s worst forest fires in decades reached 61. Four children are among the victims.

Earlier reports said 62 had died but one record was duplicated.

The fires, which broke out on Saturday, have injured at least 50 others including four firefighters.

Firefighters pause as the wildfire continues behind them (Image: AFP/Getty)

Secretary of State of Internal Administration Jorge Gomes said on Sunday many people died in their cars when they were trapped by flames in the Pedrógão Grande area in the district of Leiria, located 50 km (30 miles) southeast of Coimbra.

Gomes earlier said 30 bodies were found in cars and 17 next to vehicles on a road leading to the IC8 motorway. Eleven more people died in a village beside the IC8.

The fire is still raging on four fronts, two of which were spreading violently, he added.

Some of the hundreds of firefighters tackling the blaze were injured (Image: European Press Agency)

Around 1,700 firefighters and 300 vehicles were dispatched on Saturday to tackle about 60 forest fires across the country.

Portugal has been coping with a severe heat wave with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in several regions of the country.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo went to Pedrógão Grande to meet families of the victims.

Fighting the fire

The European Union said it would provide firefighting planes following a request from Lisbon.

“France has offered three planes through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and they will be quickly sent to assist the local emergency efforts,” EU commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management Christos Stylianides said.

Spain dispatched two firefighting aircraft on Sunday morning to aid the Portuguese fire service on the ground, António Costa, Portugal’s prime minister, said.

Forest fires last year devastated more than 100,000 hectares (1,000 square kilometres).

Share this post: