In Fire 'Like Horror Movie,' Her Quick Thinking Saved 12

Government the target of criticism after forest fire kills 62 in Portugal
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 19, 2017 7:47 AM CDT

(Newser) – "It was like a horror movie," says a survivor of Portugal's deadliest fire on record, and like in a horror movie, she survived by finding a good hiding spot. The BBC reports Maria do Céu Silva and 11 others made it through the fearsome blaze by hiding for more than six hours in the water tank outside her home in Nodeirinho, which sits adjacent to the IC8 motorway that ended up littered with bodies of those trying to flee. Silva says the idea came to her after she was unable to get her 95-year-old disabled mother in a van to exit the area. More than 2,000 firefighters continue to battle the fires, one of which killed 62 people some 90 miles north of Lisbon, as authorities are coming under mounting criticism for not doing more to prevent the tragedy, reports the AP.

Portugal's leading environmental lobby group, Quercus, issued a statement Monday blaming the blazes on "forest management errors and bad political decisions" over recent decades. The association rebuked authorities for allowing the planting of huge swathes of eucalyptus, the country's most common and most profitable species—but one that's often blamed for stoking blazes. Emergency services have been criticized for not closing a road where 47 of the deaths occurred as people fled the flames. Wildfires are an annual scourge in Portugal: Between 1993 and 2013, Portugal recorded the highest annual number of forest fires in southern Europe, per a 2016 report by the European Environment Agency. Reuters reports that police believe the blaze began when lightning hit a tree. (Read more Portugal stories.)

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