It is known in the tourist trade as the ‘Pearl of the Atlantic.’ But no holiday brochure is likely to show Madeira looking as it has done over the last two days.
Some who live on the island have lost everything in the floods. And, as homeless families seek shelter in military barracks, stories of how they escaped the rising waters have started to emerge.
Having rescued his seven children, one father wiped away tears as he described how difficult it was to get them all to safety.
“What condition is your house in?” a woman was asked, as she clutched her baby.
“Completely flooded. We can’t stay there. It is destroyed,” she replied, adding that she was only able to save her documents and a few clothes.
Family, neighbours and total strangers have been pulling together in extreme conditions.
“It was really horrific,” said one man, looking towards the wrecked remains of a nearby home. “In that house, right there, with the help of some friends, I managed to save a 22-year old woman and her 7-month old son. They had been trapped inside for more than two hours.”
For those visiting the island, the holiday snaps they will return home with could never have been anticipated. Madeira will be hoping this freak February weather won’t deter tourists from coming back soon.