At least 39 people have been killed by wildfires in Portugal and Spain, officials from both countries said Monday.
In Portugal, where 36 people are confirmed dead, more than 4,000 firefighters were at work battling around 150 fires, the Portuguese National Authority for Civil Protection (ANPC) said Monday.
At least 63 people in Portugal have been injured, with 16 of those in serious condition, according to ANPC spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar. Among those seriously injured is a firefighter who was battling the flames. Several people are still missing.
Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa declared a public emergency Monday, describing the fires as “devastating.” He announced that all necessary means would be mobilized to fight the blazes. This has been a “dramatic year,” he said, and promised action to prevent such large-scale fires in the future.
In a statement, the Portuguese government declared three days of national mourning starting on Tuesday.
The fires blazed across northern Portugal throughout the weekend before spreading into Spain’s northwest Galicia region. Many roads and schools have been closed, with several school buildings being used as shelters for evacuees.
The wildfires have been widely documented on social media. Instagram user @danitri77 posted a video Sunday showing a burning hillside on the edge of a town in Pontevedra, Galicia.
More than 600 members of the Spanish Armed Forces have been deployed to help fight the flames, including members of the 43rd Air Force Group, who shot a bird’s eye video of the fires.
Authorities in Galicia, where three people died, declared three days of mourning Monday.
Some of the fires may have been started deliberately, according to authorities in Portugal and Spain, but recent weather conditions — including low humidity and unusually high temperatures — are also believed to have played a major role.
Portugal experienced its driest September in 87 years, according to the Portuguese Institute of Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA), aggravating drought conditions that may be helping the fires to spread.
And by bringing warm air to the region, Hurricane Ophelia — which hit Ireland’s west coast as a post-tropical storm Monday — has also fueled the blaze, according to the IPMA.
Rain is expected in the coming days, but 32 counties in Portugal are still considered at maximum risk of fire, with a further 58 at very high risk, the second highest level.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy held a minute’s silence Monday in memory of the three Galician victims.
“The Government of Spain is with Galicia, its people and with the Xunta,” Rajoy wrote in a tweet. “Together we will beat the fire.”
Galician President Alberto Nunez Feijoo referred to the fires as “terrorist acts” in a tweet Monday. “A day like yesterday is not the result of chance,” he wrote later.
Feijoo described the situation as “difficult and complex” and thanked the firefighters for their efforts in tackling the fires.
At least 62 people were killed by a wildfire in central Portugal in June, which was described at the time by officials there as “the greatest wildfire tragedy of recent years.”