Fatal forest fires in Portugal cause pain in Toronto's Portuguese community
Toronto is home to over 150,000 Portuguese Canadians — some of whom have family in area where fires rage
Dark clouds of smoke hang over Portugal as it mourns the loss of more than 60 people killed by raging forest fires there.
As the country observes three days of national mourning, the tragedy is reverberating thousands of kilometres away, in the hearts of many in Toronto's Little Portugal.
Toronto is home to over 150,000 Portuguese Canadians — many of whom still have family and friends in the country.
Anotor Pires is one of them.
"I really feel sorry," he told CBC Toronto. "I feel sorry for the people who have died, for the people who have suffered and for my country."
Pires said he hasn't heard of anyone who's been directly affected.
"But who knows, maybe tomorrow, because I know a lot of people from that area."
Of the at least 62 dead, many of the victims were killed when their vehicles were engulfed by flames on a road in the Pedrogao Grande area, about 150 kilometres northeast of Lisbon.
Goe Da Silva, who was born in Portugual, said he was heartbroken to hear of the death toll.
"I have neighbours, they have people back home, they see it and they start crying because it's family back there," he said.
About 700 firefighters have been trying to put out the flames since Saturday, officials say.
"While we still don't know the full toll of this disaster, we know that the community has been devastated," said Michelle Jorge, president of The Federation of Portuguese Canadian Business and Professionals in Toronto. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families mourning and with those fighting devastating injuries."
City councillor Ana Bailao, who represents Ward 18 Davenport, also took to Twitter to express her concern.
Sending my thoughts & prayers to those affected by the forest fires in central Portugal & thank you to the brave people fighting the fires! <a href="https://t.co/NDyf1O7L6w">https://t.co/NDyf1O7L6w</a>—@anabailaoTO
Thus far, Global Affairs Canada says it has received no reports of Canadians needing assistance or being affected by the situation. But in an email, spokesperson Jocelyn Sweet said the federal government is in touch with local authorities and stands ready to provide assistance to Canadians as needed.
And while Canadians are being advised to avoid the area, the devastation isn't far from Mariana Moniz's mind.
"I was very very sad to hear this. That's the only thing I can say."