Portugal battles to contain deadly wildfires amid heat, wind

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LISBON, PORTUGAL—Emergency services in Portugal said Tuesday they were making headway in their battle to control a major wildfire that killed 64 people in the central area of the country, but another blaze nearby grew in size and caused concern.

The Civil Protection Agency said about 1,200 firefighters and nine water-dropping aircraft were fighting the deadly wildfire in Pedrogao Grande, which was raging for a third consecutive day about 150 kilometres north of Lisbon. Officials said that blaze was mostly contained though still burning fiercely.

Temperatures forecast to reach 43 C, gusting winds and bone-dry woodland were fueling the blazes, Commander Vitor Vaz Pinto told reporters.

Some resources were being diverted to Gois, about 20 kilometres from Pedrogao Grande, where almost 800 firefighters and four planes were battling the flames. Vaz Pinto said the Gois wildfire was “very fast and very explosive” and had forced the evacuation of 11 hill villages.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Antonio Costa ordered an investigation into what happened on Saturday night when the deaths occurred, 47 of them on a road as people fled the flames.

Costa’s order asked three questions: whether the extreme weather could explain the scale of the disaster, why emergency services communications at times didn’t work, and why the road where the deaths occurred was not closed.

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