Portuguese radio says 25 people killed in forest fires

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We have had large-scale fires before over the past couple of decades - this year is not unusual in that respect - but it is certainly unusual to have so many fatalities in one place.

A forest fire raging since yesterday in central Portugal has killed at least 43 people, a government official said today, in what is possibly the deadliest-ever single forest blaze in Portugal.

A huge wall of thick smoke and bright red flames towered over the top of trees in the forested Pedrogao Grande area some 150 kilometres (95 miles) northeast of Lisbon where a lightning strike was believed to have sparked the blaze Saturday.

The death toll could rise further, he said. The European Union is also reportedly organizing an worldwide relief and firefighting effort. France has offered three planes and Spain has sent two, authorities said.

'The priority now is to save those people who could still be in danger'.

Many world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Pope Francis and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressed solidarity with Portugal. Our thoughts are with victims. It released a statement announcing a minute of silence to be held before Portugal's first match of the Confederations Cup against Mexico on Sunday - and said it will make a donation to help the victims and their families.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today condoled the loss of lives in the forest fires in Portugal. The victims were caught in the fire as they tried to flee, officials said.

A total of 30 people died in their cars.

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Dozens of people who fled their homes were taken in by residents of the nearby municipality of Ansiao.

"It does not seem real, it is out of this world".

Valdemar Alves, mayor of Pedrogao Grande, said: "This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we can not remember a tragedy of these proportions".

Nearly 700 firefighters and more than 200 fire engines have been deployed to tackle the flames, according to the civil defence service. Five people - a child and four firefighters are in serious condition.

The blaze on Saturday hit the mountainous area amid an intense heat wave and rainless thunderstorms. Various local motorways were shut for safety reasons. At present authorities are trying to identify the victims from the fire while two Spanish water-bombing planes are assisting to try and put out the flames.

The "situation is unfortunately atypical." he said.

Several firefighters are among the 59 injured, the officials said. Others complained about poor forestry reserve planning and depopulation of remote villages, which leaves many wooded areas unattended.

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