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Portugal wildfire kills at least 61 people

PEDROGAO GRANDE, Portugal — A raging forest fire in central Portugal sent flames sweeping over roads, killing at least 61 people, many of them trapped in their cars as they tried to flee, officials said Sunday. The country’s prime minister called it the biggest tragedy that Portugal has experienced in decades and declared three days of national mourning. A huge wall of thick smoke and bright red flames towered over the top of trees in the forested Pedrogao Grande area about 95 miles northeast of Lisbon where a lightning strike was believed to have sparked the blaze Saturday. “The dimensions of this fire have caused a human tragedy beyond any in our memory,” Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on his arrival at the scene Sunday. Police searched charred areas of the forest and isolated homes for more bodies Sunday while 350 soldiers joined the 700 firefighters who have been struggling to put out the blaze. Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes said firefighting crews were having difficulties battling the fire, which was “very intense” in at least two of its four fronts. Schools in the area were closed until further notice and outdoor fires were banned, authorities announced Sunday.

Article by By Helena Alves and Armando Franca (c) Page One News - Read full story here.