Amid intense heat, forest fire kills at least 60 in Portugal

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Portugal declared three days of national mourning Sunday after a forest fire triggered by thunderstorms in the north of the country killed more than 60 people, many of them fleeing in their cars.

At least 30 people died in vehicles, with more bodies found near cars on the side of a road and others in rural areas near Pedrogao Grande, Secretary of State for Internal Administration Jorge Gomes said in comments broadcast Sunday by RTP. According to an initial analysis by the Judicial Police, the fire was caused by a dry thunderstorm, Gomes said. Government officials said an assessment will be made of the cause.

About 700 firefighters still were working Sunday in northern Portugal to contain the blaze, which erupted Saturday and spread amid temperatures that approached 104 degrees. Smoke has hampered airborne efforts, Gomes said. People were urged to stay away from the scene.

“This tragedy also happened because of curiosity,’’ Gomes said.

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