Deaths on Portuguese Atlantic island rise to 42

13:57, February 22, 2010      

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The death toll from the flood- and mudslide-hit Portuguese Atlantic island of Madeira has risen to 42, a local government official said Sunday.


People look on as a street with vehicles is engulfed by heavy flooding in downtown Funchal, Madeira February 20, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters photo)


There are still people who are unaccounted for, apart from 120 people who got injured in the disaster.

Local authorities evacuated 250 people, according to Francisco Ramos, the social issue director for the autonomous region of Madeira.


A police officer looks on as a man is helped across a street during floods in downtown Funchal, Madeira February 20, 2010. The death toll from the flood- and mudslide-hit Portuguese Atlantic island of Madeira has risen to 42, a local government official said Sunday. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)


"We have already identified (some) victims, and we hope the number does not increase, but it is probable it will, due to the circumstance," Ramos told the press.

According to Ramos, the remains were taken to the airport of Madeira, and some of them have not been identified yet.


People look at a flooded street in downtown Funchal, Madeira February 20, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)


Ramos added that the authorities are not able to give numbers on the missing people.

"There are reports of missing people who have not been found due to the communication problems," Ramos said.

Some 85 people who had been reported missing returned to their homes and these were people who for a period of time were not able to contact their relatives due to the interruption of telephone services immediately after the flood and mudslide, said Ramos.


A dog looks on as people recover their belongings from a taxi damaged by heavy flooding in the streets of downtown Funchal, Madeira February 20, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)


He said the restoration of communications is a priority.

Among the isolated towns is Curral das Freiras where the only highway connection was damaged by rains.

Funchola, Madeira's capital, reported 17 confirmed deaths but the number could rise.

The center of Funchola was flooded to the point that people have to use boats to move around.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates visited late on Saturday some affected areas.

Internal Administration Minister Rui Pereira, who also visited the affected area, said that rescue teams of the National Guard were sent to affected areas to find the missing people with the assistance of sniffer dogs.

The government also sent three diving teams, 43 doctors and one group of firemen for the rescue job, Pereira added.

The Portuguese frigate "Corte Real" is expected to arrive on Monday in the island with 230 officers, including seven divers, to join the rescue efforts.

Source: Xinhua
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