Portugal and Spain wildfires kill at least 34 people

Volunteers fight a fire on the outskirts of Obidos, a small town on the Portuguese coast, in the early hours of Monday

At least 34 people have been killed by wildfires in Portugal and Spain, officials from both countries said Monday.

In Portugal, where 31 people are confirmed dead, more than 4,000 firefighters were at work battling around 150 fires, the Portuguese National Authority for Civil Protection (ANPC) said Monday.

At least 51 people in Portugal were injured, with 15 of those in serious condition, according to ANPC spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar.

The fires blazed across northern Portugal throughout the weekend before spreading into Spain’s northwest Galicia region.
Portuguese firefighters battled 524 fires on Sunday, the highest number the country has ever faced in a single day.

Some of the fires may have been started deliberately, according to authorities in Portugal and Spain, but weather conditions are also believed to have played a major role.

Portugal experienced its driest September in 87 years, according to the Portuguese Institute of Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA), aggravating drought conditions that may be helping the fires to spread.

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Rain is expected in the coming days, but 32 counties in Portugal are still considered at maximum risk of fire, with a further 58 at very high risk, the second highest level.

Residents of As Neves, Pontevedra, in the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia, hold their pets as the fire moves towards their houses.

Authorities in Galicia declared three days of mourning, and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy held a minute’s silence Monday in memory of the three Galician victims.

“The Government of Spain is with Galicia, its people and with the Xunta,” Rajoy wrote in a tweet. “Together we will beat the fire.”

Galician President Alberto Nunez Feijoo referred to the fires as “terrorist acts” in a tweet Monday. “A day like yesterday is not the result of chance,” he wrote later.

Feijoo described the situation as “difficult and complex” and thanked the firefighters for their efforts in tackling the fires.

At least 62 people were killed by a wildfire in central Portugal in June, which was described at the time by officials there as “the greatest wildfire tragedy of recent years.”

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