International News / National

The Latest: Portuguese official says no fire planes crashed

A tractor is used to clear a path to slow a forest fire approaching the village of Ouzenda, outside Pedrogao Grande, central Portugal, Tuesday, June 20 2017. Ouzenda residents were evacuated and firefighters moved in to protect the houses while aircraft battled the fire approaching the small village. Emergency services in Portugal said Tuesday they were making headway in their battle to control a major wildfire that killed more than 60 people in the central region of the country. (AP Photo/Armando Franca),

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — The Latest on the fatal wildfires in Portugal (all times local):

8:35 p.m.

A spokesman for Portugal’s Civil Protection Agency says none of the planes fighting deadly wildfires in the center of the country are missing.

The update from agency spokesman Fausto Coutinho came Tuesday amid conflicting reports from the blazes and from officials about a crashed aircraft.

Coutinho suggested that the reports about a water-dropping plane crashing were based on misleading information received from the area where 64 people were killed by flames on Saturday.

Coutinho couldn’t explain why Portugal’s Air Accident Office said it had received a call from the Civil Protection Agency notifying it of a plane crash.

Coutinho tells The Associated Press that “it could have been a strange coincidence, with a plane passing over and an explosion occurring on the ground at the same time.”

Portuguese media also reported the crash, based on a variety of sources.


7:50 p.m.

A Portuguese government official says deadly wildfires in the center of the country are gradually ebbing and being contained.

Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes says “there are already some areas where the fires are contained and being extinguished.”

Gomes told reporters Tuesday evening that the main blaze in Pedrogao Grande, which killed 64 people on Saturday, is smaller and is being contained.


7:20 p.m.

A spokesman for Portugal’s Civil Protection Agency says he cannot confirm that a Canadair water-dropping aircraft has crashed while fighting deadly wildfires in the central part of the country.

Vitor Vaz Pinto says all 13 planes hired by the agency to help fight the blazes were accounted for on Tuesday evening.

But 30 water-dropping aircraft were engaged in battling the blazes, some operating under bilateral agreements with the Portuguese government and others as part of a European Union cooperation agreement.

Planes from Spain, France, Italy and Morocco are among those helping to fight the fires.

Vaz Pinto told a briefing for journalists on Tuesday: “I can’t confirm or deny that any aircraft are missing.”

An official with Portugal’s Air Accident Office earlier told The Associated Press and Portuguese media that the Civil Protection Agency informed the office that a Canadair had crashed.

Vaz Pinto says airborne search-and-rescue teams are looking for wreckage among the smoke-shrouded hills where wildfires are still raging.


6:45 p.m.

A reporter for a Portuguese public broadcaster says he heard a loud explosion in hills about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the region where firefighters are battling a fatal wildfire and a water-dropping airplane reportedly crashed.

Antena 1 public radio reporter Pedro Sa Guerra says there was thick smoke over the area on Tuesday caused by the devastating wildfire in Pedrogao Grande, where 64 people died on Saturday when a blaze swept across the region.

He says a local woman told him she saw a plane crash in a fireball on Tuesday.

A spokesman for Spain’s Ministry of Defense said it had not lost a plane, denying earlier reports that a Spanish water-dropping plane had crashed.


6:20 p.m.

An official with Portugal’s Air Accident Office says a Canadair water-dropping plane has crashed in central Portugal while fighting wildfires that killed 64 people.

Maria Jose Andre told The Associated Press that the Civil Protection Agency, which is overseeing firefighting operations, informed her office Tuesday afternoon that the plane had crashed.

She says her office immediately sent a crash investigation team to the area but that she had no details about the plane, its crew or where the crash happened.

Officials with the Portuguese government and the Civil Protection Agency said they could not confirm the crash.

Portugal’s secretary of state for the interior, Jorge Gomes, said: “We are investigating if (the reports) are true.”

Civil Protection Agency spokesman Fausto Coutinho says authorities had received reports of a plane crash near where wildfires are raging and dispatched a helicopter to check.


9:30 a.m.

Firefighters in Portugal say they are close to bringing under control a major wildfire that killed 64 people in the central area of the country.

More than 1,000 firefighters and nine water-dropping aircraft are battling the blaze in Pedrogao Grande, which is raging for a third consecutive day.

The Civil Protection Agency says it hopes to contain the flames Tuesday, though temperatures forecast to reach 43 degrees Celsius (109 Fahrenheit) and gusting winds remain a threat.

The death toll was raised from 63 to 64 late Monday.

Government officials say Prime Minister Antonio Costa has ordered an investigation into what happened on Saturday night, when the deaths occurred.