27 dead, 51 injured as Portugal suffers 500 forest fires

LISBON, Oct. 17 -- The death toll has risen to 27 in the deadly forest fires in the north and center of Portugal and is expected to climb further, Patricia Gaspar of the National Civil Protection Authority (ANPC) said on Monday, as Portugal continued to battle multiple forest fires.

   ANPC spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar told media that among those killed in the ravaging forest fires, 16 were in Viseu, 10 in Coimbra and one in Castelo Branco.

   The deadly forest fires erupted on Sunday in the north and center of the country due to the high temperature reaching 32 celsius.

   In Viseu, the government has declared a state of "public calamity" across the region, specifically north of the River Tagus.

   A total of 51 people have been confirmed injured, at least 6 seriously. Many of the injured are said to be firefighters while others are the victims of road accidents caused by people fleeing the fires.

   Numerous motorways and train lines have been closed and villages have been evacuated.

   More than 147 fires were still blazing at 11 am on Monday with 6,000 firefighters engaged.

   An exceptionally hot and dry October combined with strong winds brought by the mid-Atlantic storm, Hurricane Orphelia, helped create devastating wild fire conditions.

   But many of the fires are thought to have been started deliberately. One arsonist was caught red-handed in the town of Vale de Cambra and the Secretary of State for the Interior, Jorge Gomes, told reporters he thought farmers were partially to blame. "Pasture land is burning everywhere, that doesn't happen by accident," he said.

   The ANPC declared Sunday the worst day of 2017 for forest fires with over 523 recorded throughout the country.

   Over 260,000 hectares have burned in Portugal in 2017, almost 50 percent of the European total and double the yearly average for Portugal.

   With a death toll already in the high twenties, these latest fires are the worst of the year in Portugal since the Pedrogao Grande conflagration in June that claimed 64 lives.  Enditem

(Xinhua)

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