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Breaking: Raging wildfire kills at least 39 in Portugal

A large and intense wildfire in central Portugal has killed and injured dozens after being fanned by hot and windy conditions on Saturday.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that the death toll has reached 39 people, most of which died in their cars while trying to flee the inferno. A few others have died from smoke inhalation.

Portugal fire 6.18 AM

Firefighters of the Portuguese National Republican Guard work to stop a forest fire from reaching the village of Avelar, central Portugal, at sunrise Sunday, June 18 2017. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)


Hundreds of firefighters are on the scene, but intense heat and strong winds have made it extremely difficult to contain the blaze. A few firefighters are among the dozens more that have been injured.

“This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we cannot remember a tragedy of these proportions,” Valdemar Alves, mayor of Pedrogao Grande, told the AP. “I am complete stunned by the number of deaths.”

Portugal fire 6.18 AM

A man on the balcony of a house looks up at a forest fire raging on a hillside above the village of Avelar, central Portugal, before sunrise Sunday, June 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)


The fire began on Saturday afternoon and is burning in the mountainous area of Pedrogao Grande, about 120 miles (193 km) northeast of Lisbon. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

An alert issued by Portugal's National Authority for Public Safety on Friday warned of an enhanced risk of wildfire ignition and spread due to the hot, windy weather.

This is the deadliest fire in Portugal since 1966, when 25 people were killed during a wildfire near Lisbon, according to The Telegraph.

This is a breaking story. Check back for continued updates.