Wildfires responsible for 39 deaths in Portugal, Spain
Recently born child among the more than two dozen deaths reported so far in Portugal
Wildfires in Portugal killed at least 35 people, injured dozens more and left others missing in the country's second such tragedy in four months, officials said Monday. In neighbouring Spain, four deaths were reported.
The fatalities in Portugal occurred in densely forested parts of central and northern part of the country after blazes broke out in "exceptional" weather circumstances, Civil Protection Agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar said.
The situation was still "critical" because of unseasonably high temperatures, Gaspar said. But cooler, wetter weather is approaching, which may give some respite to firefighters tackling the blazes.
Portuguese authorities said a month-old baby was among the dead. The Civil Protection Agency said the infant had been missing after a wildfire near Tabua, some 200 kilometres north of Lisbon.
She said 56 people were injured, 16 of them seriously, and nine people were reported missing in the blazes that broke out over the weekend.
"We are still searching burnt areas to see if there are any more victims," Gaspar told The Associated Press.
More than 5,300 firefighters with more than 1,600 vehicles were still battling the fires through dense pine and eucalyptus forests Monday.
Portugal has been especially hard-hit by wildfires this year, including one that killed 64 people in June. An independent investigation into those fires found last week that authorities failed to evacuate villages on time. The fire destroyed about 29,000 hectares.
A prolonged drought and mid-October temperatures of more than 30 C have fuelled the recent spate of blazes.
'All of Galicia is weeping'
Across the border in Spain, some 105 fires were reported in the northwestern Galicia region. Authorities said that four people had died, two of them trapped in a car. Thousands of people have been evacuated.
Regional president Alberto Nunez Feijoo blamed arsonists for causing most of the blazes. He said "Galicia is fed up" with being attacked by arsonists who make the most of weather conditions, adding that some purposely tried to cause most damage by targeting urban areas.
Feijoo says 15 of the fires are posing a risk to towns. He added that 90 per cent of forest fires each year in Galicia are intentional.
He told reporters: "All of Galicia is weeping this morning for our razed hills, but especially for the loss of human lives."
Many of the fires were close to inhabited areas. Schools were closed Monday and at least 20 planes were joining 350 firefighting units in tackling the blazes. Light rainfall was expected to help extinguish the flames.
Spanish Prime Minister Marian Rajoy, who is from Galicia, travelled to the region Monday to visit an emergency response centre.