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Flash floods devastate Madeira island

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Photo: Reuters

At least 38 people have died on the Portuguese island of Madeira as flash floods filled homes and streets with mud Saturday and washed people off their feet as they tried to escape. Torrential rains fell Saturday, causing flooding and landslides. The government appealed late Saturday for EU aid.


"We have 38 dead but the figure is not completely definitive," said regional government social affairs secretary Francisco Ramos to reporters Sunday. An estimated 100 people have been injured so far.

"We are going to continue to search for bodies, we are waiting for the teams which are due to arrive... in order to continue working one the ground," he added.

Medical teams and rescuers rushed to the tourist island of 250,000 people. A naval vessel and helicopters have been sent to deliver medical and relief supplies, as the airport is closed.

High winds and rough seas made rescue attempts difficult, though weather reports say the worst of the storm is over.

Floods destroyed houses and bridges particularly in the south of the island, around the main city Funchal and in the Ribeira Brava region.

Saturday evening The head of the regional government appealed to the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, for EU aid.