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Posted by portugalpress on January 14, 2018

A blast triggering a fire at a leisure centre in Tondela last night has killed “at least eight people” with dozens injured, six of them - including a 15-year-old boy - very seriously.

The disaster - in one of the central areas devastated by wildfires during the summer - appears to have been caused by the explosion of a salamander (closed log fire) in the two-storey building.

The resulting fire ignited inflammable material in the false ceiling, spreading quickly and “causing panic”.

Portuguese media talks of people desperate to escape trampling over each other.

“Various people were crushed and it was this that caused the majority of the serious injuries”, adds tabloid Correio da Manhã.

CM puts the number of seriously injured at 14, other news sources suggests a slightly lower figure, but as the mayor of Tondela José António Jesus explained, despite the fact that the fire was brought under control within an hour, the scene was “very critical”.

Talking to reporters last night, he said: “there are many victims being attended, some have already been transported to hospitals. There have been dozens hurt. Fortunately emergency services were actioned rapidly, but this is almost a situation of catastrophe”.

Government representatives made it to the damaged "associação recreativa" centre in Vila Nova da Rainha in the early hours of the morning, with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa due to make a visit later today.

Under secretary of state for health Fernando Araújo addressed reporters at 3am giving updates on the condition of the injured - the worst of which are being treated in burns units in Lisbon and Porto.

Less serious are victims being treated in more local hospitals - a number for carbon monoxide inhalation.

According to Público, the fire ignited inflammable glass wool in the roof, which contributed to its rapid spread and the build-up of noxious fumes.

A team of psychologists was actioned to support traumatised families, as helicopters transported the worst injured backed by over 170 firefighters and medical trauma personnel.

At least 70 people were in the leisure centre - a number of them elderly - when the fire broke out, some on the first floor involved in a Sueca card tournament, the others on the ground floor watching the Benfica-Sporting de Braga football game.

In a communiqué the government has already presented its condolences to the families and friends of victims, with prime minister António Costa pledging to accompany the consequences of the disaster through the ministries of internal administration, health and labour and solidarity and social security.

Early on Sunday morning, the official number of injured treated in hospital was pegged at 35, with Fernando Araújo referring to the horrors of the summer, saying special effort will be made to face up to this latest disaster.

UPDATE WEDNESDAY:

With nine victims still in hospital due to the severity of their injuries, a ninth fatality was named today: 67-year-old José Correia.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com

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