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  1. ITV Report

Forest fires kill at least 61 in central Portugal

At least 61 people have been killed in forest fires in central Portugal.

Many of those killed died while trapped in their cars as the blaze engulfed a road in the Pedrogao Grande area.

Portuguese Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes said 60 people died from the flames and suffocating smoke. Two people were killed in a traffic accident related to the fires.

Another 54 people have been injured, including four firefighters and a child with serious injuries.

Two Britons who received minor burns and had treatment for smoke inhalation have been discharged from hospital.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are in contact with the local authorities regarding the forest fires in central Portugal. We have provided support to a number of British people caught up in the incident and stand ready to support any others who may be affected."

At least 30 people were killed when their cars were engulfed by flames. Credit: AP

Mr Gomes said at least 30 of those killed were in vehicles consumed by flames on a road between the towns of Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera.

More than 350 soldiers have joined the 700 firefighters who have been struggling to put out the flames since Saturday.

Investigators believe the fire was sparked by a lightning strike during a "dry thunderstorm".

Authorities said the the conditions may have played a part in sparking the blaze.

Dry thunderstorms occur in high temperatures when falling water evaporates before reaching the ground.

Temperatures had reached 40C in the area, about 95 miles north-east of the capital Lisbon, in recent days.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa described the fire as the "the biggest tragedy" the country has experienced in years. Three days of national mourning have been declared.

A man on the balcony of a house looks up at a forest fire raging on a hillside above the village of Avelar. Credit: AP

He added that firefighting crews are having difficulties battling the "very violent flames".

In a tweet on Sunday, Mr Costa sent his "deepest regret for the victims... and a word of encouragement and strength for all who help combat this scourge".

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted that he is "overwhelmed by the tragedy at Pedrogao Grande. The Portuguese people can count on our solidarity, support and care".