Flash flood kills at least 42 people

Rescue workers in Madeira dug through heaps of mud, boulders and debris Sunday, searching for victims buried by floods and mudslides that have killed at least 42 people on the popular Portuguese island.

Rescue workers in Madeira dug through heaps of mud, boulders and debris Sunday, searching for victims buried by floods and mudslides that have killed at least 42 people on the popular Portuguese island.

Residents looking for missing loved ones were directed by local authorities to the resort’s international airport, where a makeshift morgue has been set up.

Social services spokesman Francisco Jardim Ramos said not all the bodies had been identified. The centre is equipped with psychiatric, psychological and social counselling services, he said.

More than 120 other people were injured and an unknown number were missing, possibly swept away or smothered, authorities said, adding the death could still rise. Of 248 people who were forced to flee their homes for temporary shelters, 85 have been allowed to return home, Ramos said.

Late Sunday, a spokeswoman for the British Foreign office confirmed that a British national had died, but declined to give further details. The spokeswoman spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.

The Foreign Office also said a small number of Britons had been hospitalized on Madeira. The island is popular with British tourists, who for centuries have regarded wines made in Madeira as a luxury product.

The worst storm to hit Madeira since 1993 lashed the south of the Atlantic Ocean island, including the capital, Funchal, Saturday, turning some streets into torrents of mud, water and rolling debris.

“We heard a very loud noise, like rolling thunder, the ground shook and then we realized it was water coming down,” said Simon Burgbage, of Britain.

Madeira is the main island, with a population of around 250,000, of a Portuguese archipelago of the same name in the Atlantic Ocean just over 480km (300 miles) off the west coast of Africa.

The flash floods were so powerful they carved paths down mountains and ripped through the city, churning under some bridges and tearing others down. Residents caught in the torrent clung to railings to avoid being swept away. Cars were tossed about by the force of the water; the battered shells of overturned vehicles littered the streets.

“It was horrible, there were cars on rooftops, there were vans and trucks that had fallen and been totally crushed,” said German tourist Andreas Hoisser.

The raging water swept a fire truck downstream, slamming it into a tree.

Funchal residents and visitors must now contend with a lack of fresh water until destroyed infrastructure is repaired, the head of water services said.

“One of the main conduits of the city, which is upstream of most of the public distribution systems, has simply disappeared,” said Pimenta de Franca.

The death toll “will likely increase, given the circumstances of this flood,” Ramos said, adding there were “great difficulties” with communications on the island since phone lines were ripped out by the deluge.

“People are scared, some have lost loved ones and things are very complicated because of that,” said Madeira-born Luisa Jardin.

Firefighters used pumping equipment to try to drain an underground parking garage at a downtown department store close to where the heaviest floodwaters descended. Local authorities feared shoppers may have been trapped below ground by the deluge.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(File photo by Advocate staff)
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, centre, tables the federal budget in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Monday April 19, 2021. The federal government unveiled spending plans to manage the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis and chart an economic course for a post-pandemic Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
ATB Financial: Five things to know about the federal budget

Five things stand out above the rest in the federal government’s budget,… Continue reading

House sales remain hot in central Alberta with first-quarter sales nearly double last year’s numbers. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Central Alberta real estate market hot in 2021

Residential sales nearly double 2020 in first quarter

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer gave an update on Olymel's COVID-19 situation on Wednesday. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Veer addresses rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

Red Deer has added nearly 200 cases of active COVID-19 cases in past week

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney say the province would look at adding additional COVID-19 measures in the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open in Red Deer

Alberta adds 1,345 new cases of the virus

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Bolsonaro: Suicide by COVID

‘Rounding into the home stretch, it’s Italy by a full length, then… Continue reading

Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Red Deer, June 28, 1990. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer and the Royal Family

The recent passing and funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Tanner Pearson, right, celebrates after scoring against Toronto Maple Leafs goalie David Rittich during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Friday, April 16, 2021. (Peter Powell/Pool via AP)
Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez delivers against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Most Read