32 killed in Madeira floods

At least 32 people have died in flooding and landslides on the island of Madeira, a Portuguese news agency said today.

The Lusa agency quoted the vice president of Madeira regional government, Joao Cunha e Silva, as saying another 68 people have been taken to hospital.

Madeira is the main island of a Portuguese archipelago of the same name in the Atlantic Ocean, off the north-west coast of Africa.

Floods swept away cars and tore down houses as the storm hit early today, Lusa said. Roads were blocked by fallen trees and rocks carried by flood waters, and some bridges also collapsed.

Phone lines were knocked out, forcing the emergency services to appeal over local radio stations for off-duty doctors and nurses to report for duty.

Local authorities called in employees to operate heavy machinery like bulldozers to clear roads and remove debris.

People in low-lying areas of Funchal fled as flood waters rose, Lusa said.

Madeira regional president Alberto Joao Jardim spoke to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who is Portuguese, to appeal for emergency aid from the European Union.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates promised that help would be sent from the Portuguese mainland.


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