Firefighters are currently tackling a major forest fire in the Pedrógão Grande area, 30 miles south-east of Coimbra.
Some 43 people are already dead from the blaze when they got caught up in it trying to escape in their cars.
“Unfortunately this seems to be the greatest tragedy we have seen in recent years in terms of forest fires,” said Prime Minister Antonio Costa.
The death toll could rise further, he said.
Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes said:
“Three people died from smoke inhalation and 18 people travelling in four cars died on the road linking Figueiró dos Vinhos to Castanheira de Pera.,”
The blaze is ongoing with 60 fire units trying their best to contain it.
This story is developing.