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Europe

Heavy rains and mudslides kill at least 38 on Madeira island

Video by Fiona CAMERON , Florence VILLEMINOT

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-02-21

At least 38 people have been killed by floods and mudslides after torrential rains on the Portuguese holiday island of Madeira. Interior Minister Rui Pereira is considering declaring a state of emergency.

AFP - Violent rainstorms killed at least 38 people  on the Portuguese Atlantic island of Madeira on Saturday, a senior official said, as Lisbon mulled declaring an emergency and seeking European help.
   
"We already have 32 fatalities and 68 injured, all of them in hospital," Joao Cunha e Silva, the vice president of the island's government, told the private Sic Noticias television channel.
   
Interior Minister Rui Pereira said: "We are studying the possibility of declaring a state of emergency and then seeking help from the European Union."
   
The island's airport was closed and Funchal mayor Miguel Albuquerque advised

residents to stay at home. Several people were injured, local officials said.
   
The overnight strong winds and heavy rain caused flooding and landslides and brought down trees, particularly in the south of Madeira, a resort island located 900 kilometres (560 miles) southwest of the Portuguese mainland.
   
Winds exceeding 100 kilometres an hour, high seas and blocked roads had made things more difficult for energency services, though weathermen said the worst was over in the island, some 500 kilometres from the African coast.
   
Electricity and telephone networks were severed in many areas.
   
In Funchal, an elderly woman died when the roof of her house caved in while two others were crushed by a crane, local media reported.
   
Several Funchal residents were evacuated from their homes.
   
"It had been raining since dawn and our hotel was evacuated as it is near a river in the city centre," said Aymeric Payan, a French hotel employee in Funchal.
   
Portuguese media said the storms were the deadliest in Madeira since October 1993, when eight people died.
   
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, expressing shock, promised support for the islanders.

Date created : 2010-02-20

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