Saturday 24 February 2018

Falling tree kills at least 12 people at religious festival on Portuguese island

Firefighters cover victims of a tree that toppled into worshipping crowds during a religious festival in Funchal, Madeira island, Portugal, August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Duarte Sa
Firefighters cover victims of a tree that toppled into worshipping crowds during a religious festival in Funchal, Madeira island, Portugal, August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Duarte Sa
Firefighters cover victims of a tree that toppled into worshipping crowds during a religious festival in Funchal, Madeira island, Portugal, August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Duarte Sa
REFILE - ADDING INFORMATION Firefighters cover victims of a tree that toppled into worshipping crowds during a religious festival in Funchal, Madeira island, Portugal, August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Duarte Sa
Emergency services move an injured person to an ambulance after a tree fell on a a large crowd gathered as part of a traditional religious festival in the outskirts of Funchal, the capital of Madeira island, Portugal. Portuguese media has reported that several people have died crushed by the falling tree. (Catarina Nunes/Diario de Noticias da Madeira, via AP)
A fallen tree is seen at the scene where the tree fell on a a large crowd gathered as part of a traditional religious festival in the outskirts of Funchal, the capital of Madeira island, Portugal. Portuguese media has reported that several people have died crushed by the falling tree. (Catarina Nunes/Diario de Noticias da Madeira, via AP)
A body lies on the covered on the ground after a falling tree killed people near Funchal on the island of Madeira Portugal in this image taken from video Tuesday Aug.15, 2017. Portuguese media has reported that people died when they were crushed by a falling tree during at a popular religious festival on the island of Madeira. (TVI via AP)
An ambulance attends the scene after a tree fell on a large crowd gathered as part of a traditional religious festival in the outskirts of Funchal, the capital of Madeira island, Portugal. Portuguese media has reported that several people have died crushed by the falling tree. (Catarina Nunes/Diario de Noticias da Madeira, via AP)

Axel Bugge

At least 12 people were killed by a falling tree during a religious festival on the Portuguese island of Madeira, local media reported on Tuesday.

SIC television said 52 others were injured when the tree fell outside a church in a village in the hills overlooking Madeira's capital Funchal.

The accident happened during a major Roman Catholic festival marking the Assumption, or entry into heaven, of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus.

The local festival is called the Celebration of Our Lady of the Mount, the Atlantic island's biggest yearly religious festival. It draws big crowds.

REFILE - ADDING INFORMATION Firefighters cover victims of a tree that toppled into worshipping crowds during a religious festival in Funchal, Madeira island, Portugal, August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Duarte Sa
REFILE - ADDING INFORMATION Firefighters cover victims of a tree that toppled into worshipping crowds during a religious festival in Funchal, Madeira island, Portugal, August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Duarte Sa

The initial death toll was 11, but it rose to 12 a few hours after the incident.

An amateur video posted on the website of local newspaper Jornal de Madeira showed the huge tree crashing down into the crowd of people, prompting many to run for their lives.

A fallen tree is seen at the scene where the tree fell on a a large crowd gathered as part of a traditional religious festival in the outskirts of Funchal, the capital of Madeira island, Portugal. Portuguese media has reported that several people have died crushed by the falling tree. (Catarina Nunes/Diario de Noticias da Madeira, via AP)
A fallen tree is seen at the scene where the tree fell on a a large crowd gathered as part of a traditional religious festival in the outskirts of Funchal, the capital of Madeira island, Portugal. Portuguese media has reported that several people have died crushed by the falling tree. (Catarina Nunes/Diario de Noticias da Madeira, via AP)

"It was terrible, it was so sudden," an eyewitness told SIC television, adding that the accident happened as worshippers prepared for the procession of Our Lady of the Mount.

Television showed fire and rescue services working to help victims and cut away the fallen tree.

A body lies on the covered on the ground after a falling tree killed people near Funchal on the island of Madeira Portugal in this image taken from video Tuesday Aug.15, 2017. Portuguese media has reported that people died when they were crushed by a falling tree during at a popular religious festival on the island of Madeira. (TVI via AP)
A body lies on the covered on the ground after a falling tree killed people near Funchal on the island of Madeira Portugal in this image taken from video Tuesday Aug.15, 2017. Portuguese media has reported that people died when they were crushed by a falling tree during at a popular religious festival on the island of Madeira. (TVI via AP)

Emergency services were not immediately available to comment but were expected to give details later in the day.

Reuters

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