At least 57 killed, 59 injured in devastating forest fire in central Portugal
Flames rise during a forest fire in Pedrogao Grande, Leiria District, Center of Portugal, 17 June 2017. EPA/PAULO CUNHA
An unidentified local resident, surrounded by sparks, watches his house burning in fire in Figueira, near Pedrogao Grande, Leiria District, Center of Portugal, 17 June 2017. EPA/PAULO CUNHA
A firefighter helps a woman during a forest fire in Pedrogao Grande, Leiria District, Center of Portugal, 17 June 2017. EPA/PAULO CUNHA
Firefighters try to extinguish a forest fire in Pedrogao Grande, Leiria District, Center of Portugal, 17 June 2017. EPA/PAULO CUNHA
Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (C) embraces Pedrogao Grande Mayor Valdemar Alves (R) as Secretary of State of Internal Administration Jorge Gomes (L) looks on during a visit to the command center of Civil Protection in Pedrogao Grande, Leiria District, Portugal, 17 June 2017. EPA/PAULO CUNHA
Lisbon, Jun 18 (efe-epa).- An out-of-control forest fire in central Portugal has killed at least 57 people and injured 59, according to updated figures provided on Sunday by the government's secretary of state for internal administration, Joao Gomes.
Gomes reported that the number of deaths had increased as a result of the devastating wildfires that erupted on Saturday at the municipality of Pedrogao Grande due to unknown causes.
"Sadly, the death toll has risen to 57," said a visibly affected Gomes, who was tasked with delivering the latest information available to authorities on the site, located some 190 kilometers (118 miles) to the northeast of Lisbon.
Gomes said that at least 30 victims, including entire families, were found dead in their vehicles on two roads in the Leiria district that were blocked by the flames' advance, trapping motorists in the inferno.
Another 17 bodies were found next to the roads and 10 were recovered from the rural areas surrounding them.
Gomes also said that among the 59 injured, five people were in serious condition, including four firefighters and one child.
Meanwhile, teams of psychologists have been deployed to attend to survivors, who were reportedly "in shock" and in many cases had lost relatives in the tragedy.
The wildfire was still active on four separate fronts and had cut off several roads to Pedrogao Grande, added Gomes.
Along with the Portuguese rescue teams that arrived from the cities of Coimbra, Setubal and Lisbon, two Spanish aircraft were aiding extinction efforts, while the arrival of French support was also expected.
The flames spread during Saturday afternoon in a way that "has no explanation," Gomes said, after strong winds turned a low-scale fire into an uncontrollable wildfire.