Twelve people survived one of Portugal's deadliest fires by seeking refuge in a water tank after access to their village was cut off by the blaze.

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The residents, including a disabled 95-year-old woman, spent more than six hours in the tank as the fire prevented them from being rescued.

"If it wasn't for this, we would all have died," one of the survivors said.

The fires in central Portugal left 62 dead, many of them inside their cars as they tried to flee.

Numerous fires were still raging on several fronts, stretching Portugal's civil protection force to its limits. Outbreaks were reported in two more central regions, Castelo Branco and Coimbra.

Maria do Céu Silva was hailed as a hero after using her house's water tank to rescue the residents of Nodeirinho, next to the IC8 motorway, which was badly hit by the fire.