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Death toll surpasses 40 amid wildfire outbreak across Portugal, Spain

By Eric Leister, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
October 18, 2017, 6:20:33 AM EDT

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More than 40 people have been killed in wildfires scorching Portugal and Spain, according to government officials.

The death toll in Portugal has reached 42 according to the Associated Press, following deadly fires over the weekend.

Portugal's Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa submitted her resignation on Wednesday amid public outcry against the government response to the deadly fires.

Portugal Widlfire 10/16

A man looks at the remains of a burned coach after a wild fire in Pontevedra, in the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia, Spain, on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Lalo R. Villar)

A state of emergency has been declared across Portugal for all areas north of the Tagus River.

Farther north, five deaths have been reported in the Galicia region of northwest Spain following several new wildfires over the weekend.

Firefighters continue to battle 27 blazes across the region including seven near residential areas.

The combination of months of dry weather and gusty winds related to former Hurricane Ophelia resulted in dangerous fire conditions.

Rainfall since July 1 in Porto, Portugal, totaled only 39 mm (1.54 inches), only 29 percent of normal for that time period.

Spain Wildfires 10/16

A man uses a garden hose to water the roof of a house as a wild fire rages nearby in the outskirts of Obidos, Portugal, in the early hours of Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

However, repeated rounds of rain are expected this week as several storm systems arrive from the Atlantic Ocean.

The first round of rainfall damped parts of Portugal and northwest Spain and lowered temperatures on Monday and aided firefighters.

More widespread rainfall and continued lower temperatures are expected from Tuesday into Wednesday.

Additional rain is expected across the hardest hit areas of Portugal and Spain from Thursday into this weekend, providing further aid to firefighting efforts.

Total rainfall of 25-75 mm (1-3 inches) is expected through this weekend with locally higher amounts across Galicia.

While the rainfall will be largely beneficial, it could also heighten the risk for mudslides in the recent burn areas.

Spain weather center
Spain and Portugal weather radar
Portugal weather center

Occasional gusty winds will accompany the rainfall and could provide some brief problems for fire containment; however, the benefits of the rainfall and lower temperatures will outweigh any problems caused by the winds.

The climate in Portugal and Spain is similar to California where deadly wildfires have been raging.

Similarly to California, Portugal and Spain rely on a wet season, which occurs from the end of October through February, for most of the yearly rainfall. When rainfall during the wet season is below normal and is combined with little or no rainfall during the dry season, extreme drought and high fire danger will occur.

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