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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 July 2006, 23:31 GMT 00:31 UK
Six dead in Portugal forest fire
Six firefighters, five of them Chilean, have been killed while battling a forest fire in central Portugal.

Officials say the six were surrounded and unable to flee the flames.

The Chileans were employees of a company which offers firefighting services to pulp and paper plants and were helping the local fire brigade.

The fire, one of six raging throughout the country in soaring temperatures, began on Sunday afternoon in the Famalicao area near the town of Guarda.

Inquiry

Firefighting commander Gil Martins said the men were trapped when the wind suddenly changed direction.

"Forest fires are treacherous and unpredictable," he said. "This is a mountainous area with local winds and something went wrong. Only an inquiry will say what."

The ministry of internal administration has already opened an investigation.

More than 100 firefighters backed by vehicles and aircraft are still trying to contain the fire.

Two Chilean employees of the company, Afocelpa, died in 2003 fighting a fire near the central town of Chamusca.

Portugal was hard hit by forest fires last year, with more than 300,000 hectares of forest and agricultural land destroyed and at least 16 people killed.


SEE ALSO
EU helps fire-stricken Portugal
22 Aug 05 |  Europe
Portuguese drought hits farmers
14 Jul 05 |  Europe

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