Portugal fire kills eight at leisure centre

Portuguese emergency services treat some of the injured after the fire in Vila Nova da Rainha
Image caption At least 35 people were injured and the most seriously hurt were taken to Lisbon and Porto for treatment

At least eight people have been killed and dozens more injured after a blast triggered a fire at a community centre in northern Portugal.

The fire in Vila Nova da Rainha started when a heating boiler in the building exploded, the mayor said.

More than 60 people were at the centre for an amateur card tournament or were watching football on TV.

The fire reportedly ignited material in the roof and spread quickly, causing panic.

Vila Nova da Rainha is close to the town of Tondela and is about 260km (160 miles) north-east of Lisbon.

The mayor of Tondela, José António Jesus, told the Público newspaper that the fire quickly created a large amount of carbon monoxide.

He said the recreational and cultural centre was "very active and at the heart of the community".

At least 35 people were hurt, six of them seriously, according to local media, with most suffering burns or smoke inhalation. Some of the injured were taken to hospitals in Lisbon and Porto, the Diário de Notícias website reported.

The newspaper said glass wool in the roof may have contributed to the spread of the fire in the two-storey building.

The dense smoke may have disoriented people as they tried to escape.

One of those at the centre, Rui Abreu, told Jornal de Notícias that some people had fallen on top of each other on the stairs.

Dozens of fire-fighters were deployed and the flames were extinguished in about an hour.

The Tondela area was badly hit by forest fires last October and local officials described the latest deaths as a "new catastrophe".

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