More than 1,000 firefighters were still battling Portugal’s deadliest forest blaze on Monday after it killed at least 62 people over the weekend.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who on Sunday visited Pedro Grande, a mountainous area about 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Lisbon, called it the biggest human tragedy in Portugal in living memory.
Welcome light rain that started on Monday morning brought only modest relief to the shocked population and exhausted firefighters. Water planes, including French and Spanish ones, resumed their missions after stopping overnight, reports Reuters.
“There is still a lot of forest that can burn and the rain does not make much difference,” said Rui Barreto, deputy chief firefighter at the makeshift emergency services headquarters in Pedrogao Grande as thunder rolled through the skies over the ash-covered town.
Firefighters said the weather conditions were still adverse in most areas where the flames were raging. Two army battalions were helping the emergency services.
Dozens of fire engines drove back and forth to fight the raging blaze in areas as far as 20km north of Pedrogao Grande. In a sign of help Portugal is receiving from its European neighbors, four Spanish fire engines were seen driving off from the headquarters.
At least half the victims died in their cars as they tried to flee along a local motorway while many other bodies were found next to the road, suggesting they had probably abandoned their vehicles in panic.