The Latest: Greece offers Portugal help with forest fire – Washington Post

LISBON, Portugal — The Latest on the Portugal forest fires (all times local):

4:50 p.m.

Greece’s prime minister has offered his Portuguese colleague Antonio Costa help in fighting the deadly wildfires in his country.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called Costa on Sunday afternoon to offer his condolences for the 62 victims of the forest fire northeast of Lisbon and to offer the support of the Greek people. His statement says Tsipras “also emphasized that Greece will offer any help necessary to fight the fires.”

Greece experienced its deadliest fires a decade ago. From June to September 2007, 84 people died in Greek wildfires, including 67 in a blaze that torched 1,500 square kilometers (370,000 acres) of forest and farmland in southern Greece.


3:55 p.m.

Portuguese officials say most of the 62 people who died in the forest fire north of Lisbon were trying to flee the inferno in their cars.

The forest fire began Saturday in the Pedrogao Grande area, 150 kilometers (95 miles) northeast of Lisbon.

Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes said Sunday that at least 30 people died inside their cars as they tried to flee. He says 17 others died right outside their cars or by the road, 11 people died in the forest and two people died in a car accident related to the fire. He said there was no information on the other two deaths.

So far, no one has been reported killed by the fire inside a house.

Gomes says 54 people have also been injured, 5 of them seriously, including four firefighters and a minor.

Temperatures in the area have hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in recent days.


1:30 p.m.

Portugal has declared three days of national morning as the forest fire death toll has reached 62.

Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes has told state broadcaster RTP that the number of victims from the flames and suffocating smoke has reached 60, while another two people perished in a traffic accident related to the fires.

The government has declared Sunday through Tuesday national days of mourning for the victims of a fire “which has caused an irreparable loss of human life.”

The government also says that 360 soldiers are joining the 700 firefighters struggling to put out the blaze that started on Saturday.

The tragedy is the worst in recent memory in the southern European country, which often suffers wildfires during the hot and dry summer months.


12:25 p.m.

The European Commission says it is working with EU member states to respond to the call for assistance issued overnight by Portuguese authorities in order to fight the forest fire in central Portugal that has claimed 57 lives so far.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker sent a letter to Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, expressing “profound sadness” for the fire in Pedrogao Grande and offering “most felt solidarity.”

Juncker wrote in the letter that “Our thoughts are with all the victims, their families and all the brave soldiers of peace that in a very difficult terrain and under challenging circumstances continue to fight this terrible fire.”


12 p.m.

Portugal’s prime minister has thanked the hundreds of firefighters combating forest fires that have killed at least 57 people.

Antonio Costa tweeted his “deepest regret for the victims … and a word of encouragement and strength for all who help combat this scourge.”

He added “I am so thankful to the firefighters and other professions who are giving their all for the security of each of us by fighting the fires.”

Also, Spain says it is sending two water-dumping aircraft to help neighboring Portugal fight the blaze that has raged since Saturday night.


11:30 a.m.

Pope Francis has led thousands of people in a moment of silent prayer for the victims of the Portugal fire.

Francis referred to the “devastating fire” at the end of his Sunday prayer, delivered from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

The crowd fell silent and Francis bowed his head to recall the “many victims” of the blaze.

Francis visited the Portuguese shrine of Fatima last month.


11:15 a.m.

Portugal’s soccer team has expressed its condolences for the victims of forest fires that have claimed at least 57 lives.

The team’s players, including star Cristiano Ronaldo and coach Fernando Santos, signed a statement saying “in this sad hour we send our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and loved ones of the victims of the fires.”

Portugal’s team is in Russia, where it is set to start the Confederations Cup later on Sunday against Mexico.


10:25 a.m.

The European Union has activated its civil protection efforts to help Portugal fight forest fires that have killed at least 43 people.

The EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides expressed his condolences for the victims in a statement, saying the “EU is fully ready to help.”

Stylianides says that in response to a request for help by Portugal, Spain and France are both sending aircraft to help fight the flames.

France is sending three planes, while Spain has sent several firefighting aircraft.


9:50 a.m.

Spain’s prime minister has offered support to Portugal after forest fires have killed at least 43 people in the neighboring country.

Mariano Rajoy has tweeted that he is “overwhelmed by the tragedy at Pedrogao Grande. The Portuguese people can count on our solidarity, support and care.”

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said that Spanish rescuers would assist in efforts to control the blazes.

Many victims were killed when their cars were engulfed by flames as they swept across a country road near the town of Pedrogao Grande.


9:30 a.m.

A local resident who fled from a forest fire in central Portugal has blamed the lack of rain for helping produce the blaze that has killed 43 people and injured scores more.

Avelar resident Isabel Brandao has told The Associated Press that “the problem is that there was no rain. If it had rained, this would not happen.”

Brandao said that “at 3:30 a.m. my mother-in-law woke me up quickly and we never went to sleep again. We were afraid the fire would reach us.”

Portuguese authorities say that they are still investigating the cause of the fire. But Prime Minister Antonio Costa said high temperatures of 40 C (104 F) in recent days may have played a part.

Many victims were killed when their cars were engulfed by flames as they swept across a country road.


8:25 a.m.

A Portuguese interior ministry official says that the death toll in the forest fires raging in central Portugal has increased to 39.

Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes has been quoted as giving the new figure on public broadcaster RTP. Government officials say many of victims died in their cars when flames swept over a road.

About 600 firefighters are fighting blazes that are raging in the Pedrogao Grande area about 150 kilometers (95 miles) northeast of Lisbon.


This item has been corrected to show that Jorge Gomes is an Interior Ministry official, not interior minister.


4:35 a.m.

Portuguese radio station TSF says the Interior Ministry has confirmed that 25 people have been killed in forest fires in central Portugal.

Government officials say many of victims died in their cars when flames swept over a road.

About 600 firefighters are fighting blazes that are raging in the Pedrogao Grande area about 150 kilometers (95 miles) northeast of Lisbon.

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