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International

Wildfires in Portugal, Spain kill at least 9 people

15:20, Monday, 16 October, 2017
Wildfires in Portugal, Spain kill at least 9 people

Wildfires in Portugal killed at least 27 people, injured dozens more and left an unconfirmed number of missing in the country's second such tragedy in four months, officials said Monday. In neighboring Spain, at least three deaths were reported.

The fatalities in Portugal occurred in densely forested parts of central and northern part of the country after blazes broke out in "exceptional" weather circumstances, Civil Protection Agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar said.

The situation was still "critical" because of unseasonably high temperatures, Gaspar said. But cooler, wetter weather is approaching, which may give some respite to firefighters tackling the blazes.

In addition to the dead, 51 people have been injured, including 15 in serious condition, Gaspar said. She also said that an unknown number of people were still missing.

Portugal has been especially hard-hit by wildfires this year, including one that killed 64 people in June. An independent investigation into those fires found last week that authorities failed to evacuate villages on time. The fire destroyed about 29,000 hectares, (nearly 72,000 acres).

A prolonged drought and mid-October temperatures of more than 30 C (86 F) have fueled the recent spate of blazes.

Across the border in Spain, more than 130 fires were reported in the northwestern Galicia region. Authorities said that three people had died, two of them trapped in a car. Thousands of people have been evacuated.

At least 17 fires were close to inhabited areas, many of them in the Vigo province. Schools were closed Monday and at least 20 planes were joining 350 firefighting units in tackling the blazes. Light rainfall was expected to help extinguish the flames.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy traveled to Galicia, where he is from, to visit an emergency response center.

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