Falling oak tree crushes crowds at Christian festival in Madeira, killing 13

18 August 2017

PA

Screened off: rescue workers in Funchal, Madeira, attend to the injured

Screened off: rescue workers in Funchal, Madeira, attend to the injured

AT LEAST 13 people have been killed, including two children, and dozens more have been injured after a tree collapsed during a Christian festival on the Portuguese island of Mad­eira, on Tuesday.

Crowds had gathered outside a Roman Catholic church, Lady of Mount, in Fountain Square, near the city of Funchal, to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, when an oak tree crashed down in a cloud of dust and debris, just after noon.

Officials reported on Wednesday that 51 people had been injured in the incident, seven of whom were still in hospital when the Church Times went to press. A baby in a pram was among the victims; others had been selling devotional candles outside the church. An eyewitness told Reuters: “It was so sudden.”

Police, firefighters, and British Red Cross workers were quickly on the scene. The injured were taken to Dr Nélio Mendonça Hospital in Fun­chal. A woman and child were re­­ported to have died on the journey, despite road closures im­­posed to clear the way for ambu­lances.

Mobile-phone footage has since emerged of the tragedy. The square, which contains a shrine and other monuments, is shaded by several large trees. Local media reported that the parish council had written to the local government of Madeira three times asking for the trees to be pruned.

The 200-year-old oak tree that fell was reported to be hollow, and in a poor condition. In one letter to the government, the council wrote: “We remain concerned about the safety of citizens and the large number of tourists who visit us daily.”

The Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa, offered his condo­lences to the victims, on Tuesday. The President, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who travelled to Madeira the same evening, said that the disaster would be investi­gated by the regional government.

The Virgin Mary is the patron saint of the island. The planned procession and mass were cancelled out of respect for the victims.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) update

The latest: Daily news updates

Get the free Church Times email bulletin

RESOURCES FOR CHURCHES 

> Lift Up Your Hearts: 27 March (PDF download)

> All our recommended resources for prayer, worship, live streaming and more

SHORT-TERM SUBSCRIPTION

Unable to get to the newsagent or pass on your copy of the Church Times as usual?

Get the paper delivered for the next few weeks

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)