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At least 27 killed as raging fires sweep across Portugal and northern Spain

A spate of wildfires in central and north Portugal which started at the weekend has killed at least 31 people, civil defense authorities say.

Dozens of the 145 fires still raging are considered serious, a spokeswoman said.

To the north, fires which broke out across the border in Spain’s Galicia region claimed at least three lives.

Thousands of firefighters are battling the flames, which erupted after a hot dry summer.

Conditions were worsened by Hurricane Ophelia, as it approaches Europe’s western coast, bringing strong winds to fan and spread the flames.

More than 50 people have also been injured in Portugal; 15 are reported to be in a serious condition. Local media say several people are still missing here, including a month-old baby.

In Spain, two of the victims were found in a burned-out car by the side of the road.

Rain is forecast for the affected regions late on Monday.

Men gather cattle during a forest fire in Vieira de Leiria, Marinha Grande, Portugal 16/10/2017People view damage caused by fires at a camping ground in the Marinha Grande area of central Portugal

The Portuguese deaths were in the Coimbra, Guarda, Castelo Branca and Viseu areas.

“We went through absolute hell. It was horrible. There was fire everywhere,” a resident of Penacova, near Coimbra, was quoted as telling Portuguese RTP TV.

A state of emergency has been declared in Portugal north of the Tagus river – about half the country’s land area. More than 6,000 firefighters in 1,800 vehicles were deployed by early Monday morning.

Galician leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo has claimed the fires were deliberately set by arsonists, in what he called “terrorist acts”.

A house burns in Moinhos village, Lousa, Portugal 15/10/2017

Firefighters work to extinguish a forest fire in As Neves, Galicia, Spain, 16/10/2017

Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said several people had already been identified in connection with the fires, and appealed for anyone with further information to share it with the national protection service.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy travelled to Galicia where he met firefighters and expressed solidarity with the victims.

The wildfires follow a massive forest blaze in Portugal in June which killed 64 people and injured more than 130. Firefighters tackling that blaze also alleged it had been started by a “criminal hand”.

But in the aftermath, questions were raised about the speed of the response and the readiness to tackle such a fire. It also emerged that the country’s rescue network, a public-private partnership, failed to connect several emergency calls to firefighters.

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