More than 20 dead from forest fires in central Portugal

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Numerous victims died trapped in their cars while trying to flee the blaze, whose cause was not yet known.

Around 600 firefighters are battling the flames raging in the Pedrogao Grande area, which is about 93 miles northeast of the capital Lisbon.

The fire, which has yet to be controlled, is already one of the deadliest forest fires in Portugal in decades.

Gomes earlier said all 19 of the people then confirmed dead were civilians.

Brandao said that "at 3:30 a.m.my mother-in-law woke me up quickly and we never went to sleep again".

Spain has sent two water-bombing planes to help their neighbour fight the fires.

"We received yesterday a first good news from Fitch after four years and a half". He said Portuguese authorities were working on identifying the victims and that Spanish rescuers would assist in efforts to put out the fires.

A firefighter helps a woman during a forest fire in Pedrogao Grande.

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Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes said 22 people burned to death in their cars when they found themselves trapped by flames on the road between Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera.

Valdemar Alves, mayor of Pedrogao Grande, said: "This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we can not remember a tragedy of these proportions".

Several firefighters are among the 59 injured, the officials said. Some were hospitalized in serious condition Sunday, CNN affiliate TVI reported.

About 700 firefighters have been trying to put out the fires since Saturday, Gomes said.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa said that firefighters were experiencing difficulties due to the intensity of the blaze.

A local resident who fled from a forest fire in central Portugal has blamed the lack of rain for helping produce the blaze that has killed 43 people and injured scores more.

Portugal was sweltering under a severe heatwave across the weekend, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in several regions.

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