Seventh-day Adventist church members and the church’s humanitarian agency are stepping up to support Portugal nationals who lost everything after a forest fire devastated that European country central region. According to the last government reports, at least 60 people have been killed, many dying in their cars as they tried to flee the flames.
Portugal’s prime minister António Costa described the blazes—which have also injured dozens of people—as “the biggest tragedy we have seen in recent years regarding forest fires,” and warned the death toll could rise. Three days of national mourning were declared.
Several hundred firefighters and 160 vehicles were dispatched late on Saturday to tackle the fire.
“The news and images that are coming from the central region of Portugal, where many villages were hit by what is already considered one of the greatest catastrophes ever caused by fire, fill our hearts with pain for the victims and their families,” said church leaders in Portugal in an official statement. “The Adventist Church in Portugal would like to express its sorrow and its support for all who lost friends and relatives in this tragic event as well as those who saw their belongings destroyed by the fire.”
According to partial reports from church members and leaders in Portugal, Adventist Clinic Vita Salus was evacuated but did not sustain any damages. There are no victims among the members of the churches and groups in the area. However, there are several Adventist families that lost their homes and all their belongings, including their cars, greenhouses, and even personal documents.
“We know that some of our brothers are providing support to these families,” said church leaders. “Similarly, ADRA is at work, collecting donations and providing resources,” they said, referring to the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, the humanitarian arm of the church. “This is a moment in which all of us, even if we are physically distant from this place of suffering, can make our contribution by supporting ADRA.”
“This terrible event deeply saddens us,” stated the Public Relations Department of the Inter-European Division, a church region that includes Portugal. “Our hearts go out to all those involved during this trying time. May our prayers serve as a comfort to the families and friends of the victims. May the Lord ease the pain provoked by this tragic event.”