It is being described by some as the worst natural disaster to hit the Portuguese holiday island of Madeira in 100 years. Huge torrents of mud and water have left at least 32 people dead and more than twice that number in hospital.
Earlier, Portugal’s premier Jose Socrates arrived on Madeira to assess the damage for himself and help coordinate the aid effort. Situated next to three main water arteries that run into the Atlantic, the low-lying capital Funchal saw some of the worst flooding.
Emergency crews struggled in the face of such fierce currents while locals and tourists were forced to run the gauntlet. Cars, roads, bridges and trees were all swept away as rising water gushed down from the island’s steep hillsides after the freak heavy downpours.
Even though conditions have eased overnight, many power and phone lines are down and there is concern for those cut off in the island’s remote mountainous areas. Madeira’s regional president has called on the EU for emergency aid.