At least 57 people are now known to have died and 59 people are injured in the devastating forest fire in Portugal.

At least 18 people died in their cars when the fire took them by surprise. It is believed that some of them may have been trying to flee.

It is possibly the deadliest ever single forest blaze in Portugal.

Of the 59 people injured, four are in a serious condition, and four firefighters and a child are all injured.

Teams of psychologists have been deployed to care for survivors, who are ‘in shock’ and have lost relatives.

The blaze has been described as ‘almost impossible to control’ and emergency services have spoken of a ‘horrible scenario’.

Firefighters work to put out a forest fire near Bouca, in central Portugal. The forest fires have already claimed 39 lives, 59 people are injured and at least two people are missing

Police said lightning was to blame for the increasing death toll.

Policia Judiciaria Nacional director Almeida Rodrigues ruled out arson.

He said: ‘The PJ, together with the GNR police force, have managed to establish the origin of the fire and it’s all clearly pointing towards natural causes.

‘We’ve even found a tree that was struck by lightning.

‘We’ve managed to determine that the fire was caused by thunderstorms.’

The death toll is expected to rise further during the day as ‘many’ people were said to be still missing.

A man stands on the roadside watching a wildfire at Anciao, Leiria, central Portugal. The wildfire has killed at least 43 people and injured 16 others, many of them burning to death in their cars, the government said today

Several roads of Pedrógão Grande have been cut off as firemen still battle the blaze on four different fronts, fanned by the heat and wind.

The Pedrógão Grande area is 50 km (30 miles) south-east of Coimbra, a UNESCO world heritage site and university town popular with tourists and international students.

It is not yet known if any British people have been impacted by the deadly blaze.

The updated death toll was released today by Jorge Gomes, the secretary of state for internal affairs, having climbed from the 19 initially announced dead late yesterday.

Portuguese National Republican Guard firefighters work to stop the fire from reaching the village of Avelar at sunrise today. 16 people died in their cars when fire reached the road

‘We are facing the greatest tragedy of human victims of recent times by a disaster of this type,’ said the Portuguese prime minister, António Costa.

At least 16 people died in their cars on a road between the towns of Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera – an inland area with many hotels and holiday resorts.

18 people are currently confirmed as having died in their cars.

The blaze broke out on Saturday afternoon in the municipality of Pedrógão Grande, central Portugal.

‘Many’ people are said to be missing and homes have been destroyed.

The European Union has activated its civil protection efforts to help fight the fires. EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said the ‘EU is fully ready to help’

Portugal has been experiencing soaring temperatures of up to 40 degrees and this, coupled with the wind, has been fueling the flames.

Some 600 firefighters have been fighting the blaze, helped by Spanish rescuers.

Efforts are now being made to confirm the identity of the victims.

The European Union has activated its civil protection efforts to help fight the fires.

EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said the ‘EU is fully ready to help’.

He said Spain and France are both sending aircraft to help fight the flames.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted that he is ‘overwhelmed by the tragedy at Pedrogao Grande. The Portuguese people can count on our solidarity, support and care’.

Portugal has been experiencing soaring temperatures of up to 40 degrees and this, coupled with the wind, has been fueling the flames. Some 600 firefighters have been fighting the blaze, helped by Spanish rescuers