17 Oct 2017

Portugal wildfires kill dozens

5:27 am on 17 October 2017

At least 35 people have died as firefighters battle more than 145 fires in Portugal, and Spain.

Firefighters tackle a wildfire in Macao.

Firefighters tackle a wildfire in Macao, a municipality in central Portugal. Photo: AFP

Portugal, still recovering from its deadliest forest fire on record in June, bore the brunt of the latest death toll - 32, with the possibility of rising further, according to the authorities.

Authorities said they were still battling 145 blazes in Portugal while another 100 fires were raging in Spainish region Galicia.

The weekend's fires had also injured 56 people in Portugal, civil protection service spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar said. The toll could still increase as seven people were unaccounted for.

Portugal's government asked for international help and declared a state of emergency in territory north of the Tagus river - about half of its landmass.

"We are facing new (weather) conditions ... In an era of climate change, such disasters are becoming reality all over the world," Portugal's Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa said, citing the fires also burning in US state California.

Officials said the fires, some of which were deliberately lit, had been fanned by strong winds as remnants of ex-Hurricane Ophelia brushed the Iberian coast.

They spread quickly across a landscape left tinder-dry by a hot summer.

Three people died in Spain's Galicia region - two of them women found inside a burnt-out car, the third a man in his seventies, killed as he tried to save his farm animals, media reported.

Most of the fires in Galicia were started deliberately, the head of the regional government, Alberto Nunez Feijoo, said in a radio interview.

Spain's Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said some of those responsible had already been identified. They could face up to 20 years in jail if convicted, police said. At least one person was arrested in Portugal for allegedly starting a fire.

In June, 64 people died in a huge forest fire in central Portugal.

- Reuters / BBC