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More Than 50 Killed By Forest Fire In Portugal

The fires have been described as 'the greatest tragedy we have seen in recent years'.

18/06/2017 4:07 PM IST | Updated 18/06/2017 4:07 PM IST
PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA via Getty Images
The fires occurred in the Pedrógão Grande area, about 150 kilometres northeast of Lisbon.

Firefighters are continuing to battle an uncontrolled forest fire in Portugal that has claimed the lives of more than 50 people.

More than 60 fires broke out in the Pedrógão Grande area overnight local time, while the country endured temperatures exceeding 40 degrees in several regions.

Dry thunderstorms may have contributed to the fires, however the cause of the blaze remains unknown.

Portugal's Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, has described the event as "the greatest tragedy ... seen in recent years in terms of forest fires".

More than 1,700 firefighters attended to the blaze with two missing and several among the 59 people reported to be seriously wounded.

Jorge Gomes, Secretary of State for the Internal Affairs, said that 30 of those who died were found trapped inside their cars, with another 17 next to their vehicles.

Both France and Spain have offered support, sending water-bombing planes to tackle the fires. The European Union has also offered assistance to local emergency efforts.

PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA via Getty Images
A period of national mourning is expected to be announced.

Local resident Isabel Brandao told the ABC residents are fearing for their lives.

"Yesterday we saw the fire but thought it was very far. I never thought it would come to this side," she said.

"At 3:30am, my mother-in-law woke me up quickly and we never went to sleep again. We were afraid the fire would reach us."

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