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Second forest fires in central Portugal under control

Second forest fires in central Portugal under control

The Portuguese Civil Protection Operational Commander Vitor Vaz Pinto said on Wednesday that the devastating forest fires which have been raging in Pedrogao Granda for five days have been brought under control.

"This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we can not remember a tragedy of these proportions", said Valdemar Alves, mayor of Pedrogao Grande.

Tavares said the fire in Gois had affected 20,000 hectares.

The head of the Portuguese Fire Department, Jaime Marta Soares, said at a press conference that the fire that left at least 64 dead and 179 wounded could have a criminal origin. Originally it was thought dry thunderstorms sparked the blaze after a tree was found having been hit by lightning.

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There, about 1,100 firefighters supported by 14 water-dropping aircraft battled the flames, which officials said they expected to extinguish by Wednesday night. But Marta Soares claims the fire had already been burning for two hours before the storm started on Saturday and is calling for an investigation.

"My nephew died, a fireman" said Joaquim Serra da Fonseca, 68, in Castanheira de Pera, which sits along the N236 national road that has since been dubbed the "road of death".

The police moved to deflect the criticism, saying that at the time of the disaster it did not know the road was at risk.

Portugal's prime minister described it as "the biggest tragedy of human life that we have known in years".


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