Death toll rises to 62 as forest fires rage across Portugal (Upd)

Many of the dead were killed while in their cars as flames swept along a road

At least 62 people have been killed in a number of forest fires in central Portugal, as temperatures pass 40C.

The Portuguese government said many of the victims died in their cars as flames swept over a road.

Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes said 16 people lost their lives in their vehicles between the towns of Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera.

A forest fire is seen near Tojeira,  Pedrogao Grande, in central Portugal, June 18, 2017.  REUTERS/Rafael Marchante - RTS17ID2

About 20 people have been hurt, 14 of them seriously.

Around 600 firefighters are battling the flames raging in the Pedrogao Grande area, which is about 93 miles northeast of the capital Lisbon.

Six firefighters are among those injured.

A wildfire is reflected in a stream at Penela, Coimbra, central Portugal, on June 18, 2017.  A wildfire in central Portugal killed at least 25 people and injured 16 others, most of them burning to death in their cars, the government said on June 18, 2017. Several hundred firefighters and 160 vehicles were dispatched late on June 17 to tackle the blaze, which broke out in the afternoon in the municipality of Pedrogao Grande before spreading fast across several fronts.  / AFP PHOTO / PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA        (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Antonio Costa said: “Unfortunately this seems to be the greatest tragedy we have seen in recent years in terms of forest fires.

“The number of fatalities could still rise.

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


A period of national mourning will be announced shortly, Mr Costa said.

Spain has sent two water-bombing planes to help their neighbour fight the fires.

Some 60 forest fires broke out overnight on Saturday, as temperatures passed 40C in several regions.

A number of villages have been evacuated due to the danger but the extent of damage to property is not yet clear.