Tens of thousands of hectares of burnt forest, at least 64 people killed and another 250 injured. The deadliest wildfires in Portugal’s history, in the central municipalities of Pedrógão Grande and Gois have been put out. Now begins the job of assessing the damage while looking into the cause of the disaster.
Hundreds of firemen remained on standby on Friday to ensure the blaze didn’t pick up again. Spain, France and Italy have also sent backup.
It took five days to bring the flames under control because of high temperatures, bone-dry woodland, strong winds and the area’s rugged terrain.
Both the Portuguese government and the emergency services have been criticised over their response to the fires, and several investigations have been opened.
Many people died on a country road as they tried to flee in their cars but were trapped by the flames.
The Portuguese weather agency said the fire spread so quickly because exceptional weather conditions created a “downburst” – a strong wind blowing downwards that sprays embers all around.
Phone communications were also cut off in the blaze – considerably complicating rescue and firefighting efforts.
The government has promised a national fund to help the victims, and fundraisers are being set up to thank firefighters for their tireless work.