Pedro Silva was relieved to know none of her family members in central Portugal were affected by this weekend's raging forest fires. But she was still devastated to see the damage.
"Those are places I've visited in the past, and to see the images of the roads covered by fire with all those cars, it's really terrible," said Silva, who has lived in Toronto for the past 14 years.
"I can’t recall a catastrophe at this level. People have lost their family, friends and homes. The death toll continues to rise ... the fires are still not out and temperatures remain high."
The tragedy has left many in the Toronto Portuguese community shaken, and GoFundMe fundraising pages are springing up to support those directly affected by the fires.
Silva's comments echo those of Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who told reporters at the scene the fires have caused "a human tragedy beyond any in our memory."
More than 60 people have been killed since Saturday, when a wild fire broke out in the Pedrogao Grande region some 150 kilometres north of Lisbon, the capital. The region has endured long months of drought and heatwaves - with temperatures sometimes reaching over 40 degrees Celsius in some areas.
Fires have also been reported in central regions of Castelo Branco and Coimbra, and the death toll is expected to rise as hundreds of firefighters continue battling the flames and the thick smoke.
"It's especially heartbreaking to see the kids caught up in the fire," said Dina Santos, who's lived in Toronto for the past eight years and works at Pavao grocery store in Little Portugal.
"I've been back there four times and I don't know if it's going to look the same next time I visit again."
Vania Delgado, who works at Nova Era bakery and whose family lives some 40 minutes away from Pedrogao Grande, said it's hard not to worry about the future of the country. There's a lot of forest around many small villages, and tragedy could strike again any time, any where, she said.
"It's really sad and heartbreaking," she said.
Article via Metro News.