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Wednesday 29 January 2020

13 dead after tree crashes down on Madeira festival

The scene where the tree fell on a large crowd on Madeira (Catarina Nunes/Diario de Noticias da Madeira, via AP)
The scene where the tree fell on a large crowd on Madeira (Catarina Nunes/Diario de Noticias da Madeira, via AP)

Thirteen people have died and 49 are injured after a huge oak tree crashed down on a popular religious festival on the Portuguese island of Madeira.

The tree fell while a large crowd was gathered near the island's capital of Funchal as part of the Nossa Senhora do Monte festival.

It is Madeira's biggest annual festivity and was being held on Monday and Tuesday, drawing large crowds to a church on Funchal's outskirts.

The tree was a towering oak, which local media reports said was more than 200 years old. Regional authorities say they are investigating what caused it to come down.

Regional health chief Pedro Ramos said seven people had serious injuries. Of the fatalities, 10 people died at the site of the accident. A child died en route to a local hospital, where a woman later died. It was not clear where the last victim died.

RTP public television showed images of emergency workers gathered under a group of tall trees on the Atlantic island. Ambulances were shown pulling away from the site while workers wielding chainsaws cut away limbs from an enormous tree on the ground.

More televised images showed some people attending to the injured. Others appeared visibly shaken.

Miguel Albuquerque, the head of the regional government of Madeira, declared three days of mourning for the victims.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa shared his condolences on his Twitter account.

"My thoughts are with the family and friends of the victims," he said.

Mr Costa said the central government made contact with local authorities on the island to offer support.

"The government has provided medical support given the high number of victims," he said.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa travelled to the island and visited the site of the accident.

Before arriving, he said in a statement that he wanted "to learn more about what has happened, and, of course, to bring words of encouragement and comfort to those who have lost their loved ones."


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