At least 42 people have died in floods and mudslides caused by torrential rain on the Portuguese island of Madeira. Britain's Foreign Office said a Briton was among those killed, the first confirmed death of a foreign national.
AFP - Emergency workers on Portugal's island of Madeira will press on with rescue work Monday after the flash flooding that killed at least 42 people, but have warned that the toll will likely rise.
Troops and other rescue workers spent Sunday digging through mud-filled houses and streets after the flash floods' torrents of brown water swept some people to their death, demolished houses and overturned cars.
The government in Lisbon has rushed medical teams, rescue teams including divers and sniffer dogs and relief supplies to the Atlantic island.
And the country's cabinet is expected to announce three days of national mourning at a special meeting Monday in Lisbon, government sources said.
Morgue pathologists on Madeira meanwhile sent a grim warning that more bodies would be found in the mud that swept people off their feet as they tried to escape.
And in Madeira's main city, Funchal, mayor Miguel Albuquerque told reporters: "It is very probable that we will find more bodies."
The heavy rains ended Sunday, revealing scenes of devastation in the capital, Funchal, with cars overturned and roofs ripped off buildings.
Power and telephone lines were torn down but flights to the international airport restarted from the Portuguese mainland, 900 kilometres (560 miles) to the northeast.
The disruption to phone lines had made it difficult to establish how many people needed to be rescued because many of them just could not be contacted, Madeira's social issues affairs secretary Francisco Ramos told reporters.
The regional government gave a new toll of at least 42 dead and more than 120 people injured, including a few British nationals.
Late Sunday Britain's Foreign Office said one Briton was among those killed, the first confirmed death of a foreign national in the disaster.
A shopping centre in Funchal was completely destroyed and firefighters feared there were likely people trapped in an underground parking lot which was still under water.
A morgue has been set up at the airport, where one local official said they had not yet been able to identify all the bodies.
At the height of the storm, the authorities put out emergency messages urging people not to risk their lives by venturing out into the torrents of muddy water that poured down the hillsides and out of alleys.
Winds exceeding 100 kilometres (60 miles) an hour, high seas and blocked roads made rescue attempts even more dangerous for emergency services.
The mud filled some homes up to the second floor and the rescue teams from mainland Portugal were put to work clearing out the stricken buildings.
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates went to Funchal on Saturday night and promised "all necessary aid" to help Madeira recover from the disaster.
Football star Cristiano Ronaldo, Madeira's most famous native, expressed shock and promised help for relief efforts.
"It is a huge catastrophe, a tragedy without precedent," said the world's most expensive footballer, who was born in a poor district of Funchal.
"No-one can remain indifferent to a calamity of such huge proportions, least of all me who was born and grew up in Madeira."
The damage was concentrated around Funchal and the Ribeira Brava region, both on the south of the island.
The Portuguese naval frigate Corte-Real set off from Lisbon for Madeira late Saturday with helicopters, a medical team and relief supplies, a military statement said.
The head of the regional government held talks late Saturday with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in a bid to get EU aid.
Neighbouring Spain and its Canary Islands have also offered to send aid.
Officials on the island have opened a military garrison to house about 100 of the 250 people left homeless.
Officials evacuated the lower part of Funchal, which has 100,000 of the 250,000 who live on Madeira.
Portuguese media said the storms were the deadliest in Madeira since October 1993, when eight people died. Socrates expressed shock at the deaths and promised support for the islanders.
Date created : 2010-02-21