The forest fire caught many victims in their cars as they tried to escape the city
A lightning strike be the cause of the forest fire that ignited the blaze in central Portugal, which had been going through a heat wave accompanied by heavy winds.
The fire burned through Pedrogao Grande, a mountainous region roughly 125 miles northeast of Lisbon.
Over 600 firefighters were still battling the flames on Sunday, although authorities stated low-hanging clouds of smoke prevented fire planes and helicopters from dropping water for most of the day.
Although police, firefighters and paramedics responded as rapidly as they could, alerting the population to evacuate was made extremely difficult after the fire took out phone lines and communication towers.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa said of the fire, “What happened was cables and communications towers were destroyed by the fire, even their first replacements melted.” He praised firefighters, adding: “But nothing compromised the firefighting efforts.”
Although communications have been restored, the Prime Minister asked citizens living in zones near the fire to keep an ear turned to the radio and listen for calls to evacuate or other official advice.
Death toll expected to rise as firefighters inspect remote villages consumed by the blaze
Prime Minister Costa said on Sunday: “The dimension of this fire was such that we don’t have memory of such a human tragedy.”
The majority of victims were caught by the fire on the roads as they attempted to flee their homes.
Video footage of one blackened husk of a village in Nodeirinho revealed charred houses and cars completely consumed by the flames.
Residents of the village revealed that they witnessed an entire family caught in a “tornado of flames” as they attempted to escape their home.
62 have been confirmed dead, and another 54 have been taken to hospital to treat their injuries.