Portugal, June 18: A major fire break-out in central Portugal killed at least 39 people and injured 60 others, most of them burning to death in their cars, the government said on Sunday.
Several hundred firefighters and 160 vehicles rushed to the spotlate on Saturday to tackle the blaze, which broke out in the afternoon in the municipality of Pedrogao Grande before spreading fast across several fronts.
The majority died while trying to flee the Pedrógão Grande area, 50 km south-east of Coimbra, in their cars, among which several fire fighters are reported to be injured. The death toll is expected to rise further.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa regretted the incident saying, "Unfortunately this seems to be the greatest tragedy we have seen in recent years in terms of forest fires."
Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes earlier said that three people died from smoke inhalation and 16 died in their cars on the road linking Figueiró dos Vinhos to Castanheira de Pera, reports BBC.
Portugal was sweltering under a severe heatwave on Saturday, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius 104 degrees Fahrenheit in several regions.