Portugal declares three days of mourning over deadly forest blaze

More than 1,000 firefighters were still battling Portugal's deadliest forest blaze on Monday after it killed dozens over the weekend, and a fireman died from his injuries in a hospital, bringing the death toll to at least 63.

"Portugal weeps for Pedrogao Grande", said the I newspaper while mainstream Publico's headline simply read "Why?"

"The dimension of this fire was such that we don't have memory of such a human tragedy", said Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

People stop by a mountain road to watch a forest fire near Pedrogao Grande, central Portugal, Monday, June 19 2017.

Although the searing temperatures in Portugal had dropped slightly on Monday, the fire was still raging, spreading to neighbouring regions of Castelo Branco and Coimbra.

Firefighters were continuing a grim search for bodies, with Costa warning yesterday that the death toll could still rise. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has admitted in a message to the nation that there are "questions that grieve us" but called on the population to concentrate on putting out the fire and helping the victims for the time being.

The combination of high temperatures and strong winds appeared to contribute to the rapid spread of the fires.

While several residents of the village of Pobrais were killed while trying to flee roadside flames, the Ferreira family survived by taking refuge in a small water tank a few metres (yards) from their door.

"It was really hell. I thought the end of the world had come", said Maria de Fatima Nunes, a survivor.

The expanse of wooded hills in the area north of Lisbon, which 24 hours before had glowed bright green with eucalyptus plants and pine trees, was gutted by the flames.

Other bodies were found in houses in isolated areas.

Another 62 people were injured, with five in a critical state including a child and four firefighters.

"With the help of my son we managed to take her here".

"Our house is still there but we lost everything else: the chickens, the rabbits and the ducks. It was like a horror film", she said.

"It was fortunate we were not there because I would have tried to save our possessions and then the worst could have happened", he said. The family has been using a hosepipe to keep the flames at bay.

Virgilio Godinho, who lives in the village of Figueiro, said the fire quickly overwhelmed the community.

About 35 forest fires continued to burn across the country today, with more than 2,000 firefighters and 660 vehicles mobilised.

Portugal was hit by a series of fires past year which devastated more than 100,000 hectares (1,000 square kilometres) of the mainland.

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