Portugal fires: Plane crashes while fighting deadly blazes

High temperatures and winds threaten to make the situation worse in the coming days

Tom Batchelor@_tombatchelor
Tuesday 20 June 2017 18:18
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A Canadair amphibious aircraft drops its load over a wildfire in central Portugal in 2013
A Canadair amphibious aircraft drops its load over a wildfire in central Portugal in 2013

A plane tackling devastating forest fires in central Portugal that have claimed the lives of 64 people has crashed.

The Canadair aircraft came down near Pedrogao Grande, local media reported. There has been no confirmation of casualties.

A helicopter is understood to be on its way to where the plane crashed.

Civil Protection Agency spokesman Fausto Coutinho said authorities had received reports of a plane crash near where the deadliest wildfires on record are raging.

Earlier, firefighters said they were close to bringing the blaze under control.

However, temperatures are forecast to reach 43 degrees Celsius and gusting winds remain a threat.

And a separate fire in the village of Gois, further to the north, suggested the risk remained of further outbreaks.

About 160 other people were injured in the blaze, about 125 miles northeast of the capital Lisbon.

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More than 1,000 firefighters and nine water-dropping aircraft are battling the fire, which is raging for a third consecutive day.

The death toll was raised from 63 to 64 on Monday night.

Government officials say Prime Minister Antonio Costa has ordered an investigation into what happened on Saturday night, when the deaths occurred.

The high death toll left Mr Costa questioning the effectiveness of Portugal’s emergency response system.

Among the questions being asked was why a road where many people died had not been closed off.

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