(Photo: AP)

A “dry thunderstorm” is believed to have started the fire. The phenomenon happens when rain evaporates because of high temperatures before hitting the ground.

Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa said the death toll had risen to 62 by the end of June 18th. She said the country's judicial police was expecting to complete the identification of the bodies soon in order to release them as quickly as possible.

More than 350 soldiers joined the 700 firefighters who have been struggling to put out the blaze, schools in the area were closed until further notice and outdoor fires were banned.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa called it "the greatest tragedy we have seen in recent years in terms of forest fires" and warned the death toll could rise.

The government has declared three days of mourning.

The country was hit by a series of fires last year which devastated more than 100,000 hectares of the mainland./.

Compiled by BTA