Page last updated at 21:32 GMT, Sunday, 21 February 2010

Briton killed as flash floods devastate Madeira


Amateur video of the flash floods hitting Madeira

A Briton has died following flash floods on the Portuguese island of Madeira, the Foreign Office has said.

At least 40 people have been killed in the floods, and more than 120 others hurt - a "small number" British.

Heavy rains brought tonnes of mud and stones down the slopes of the island, flooding the streets of the regional capital, Funchal, and other towns.

The island's 2,000 UK tourists have been told they can venture out again after earlier advice to stay indoors.

Ronaldo showed his allegiance after scoring a goal on Sunday
No-one can remain indifferent to a calamity of such huge proportions, least of all me who was born and grew up in Madeira
Cristiano Ronaldo

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said the family of the dead Briton had been informed, but added: "We are not able to release any further details at this stage."

There has been widespread damage along the south coast of the island, with roads blocked, phone lines down and many people without water and electricity.

A Portuguese social services spokesman said communication problems were proving very difficult and warned the death toll would "likely increase, given the circumstances of this flood".

Portugal's Prime Minister Jose Socrates, who has visited the island, said he was appalled by the destruction and promised all necessary help.

Real Madrid and former Manchester United footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, who hails from the island, said: "It is a huge catastrophe, a tragedy without precedent".

Phone lines dead

The Foreign Office said earlier that a "small number" of British nationals had been treated in hospital.

Peter Ramos, of Hospital Cruz de Carvalho, said out of the 120 patients seen on Saturday, three were from the UK.

A woman remained in hospital with multiple injuries, he said, while two men sustained minor injuries and had been discharged.

"Four people in a taxi were hit by floods," he added.

In the UK, families are struggling to contact their relatives in Madeira as many of the phone networks are down.

Autonomous region of Portugal with population of around 250,000
Lies just over 480km (300 miles) from West African coast
The European continent is more than 900km (560 miles) away

Martin Hellier, 38, from Yeovil, Somerset, said he was growing increasingly concerned for his parents who live 20 miles (32km) west of Funchal in Ponta Do Sol.

He told the BBC he had heard no news in 24 hours because the phone lines were dead.

"My next course [of action] is to get in touch with the authorities over there and ask them what the conditions are in that particular region," he said.

Mark Costa told the BBC on Sunday he was evacuated from his Funchal apartment because there was no electricity or running water and the underground car park was submerged.

The 30-year-old, from Bicester, Oxfordshire, was visiting his Portuguese parents who were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. All three were later relocated to a safer area of the city.

He said most of the water had now drained into the rivers but the roads around Funchal harbour were covered in mud.

"Looking out of the window, they have diverted the water back into the river," he said.

One of the staff here said that in 46 years working in the same place he had never seen seas like it
Margaret Beckett

Former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett, who is holidaying on the Atlantic island, said the weather had been "really wild".

"One of the staff here said that in 46 years working in the same place he had never seen seas like it or winds like it, so it obviously has been quite exceptional," she said.

UK travel association Abta said the hotels had been largely unaffected.

Some flights were cancelled and delayed on Saturday, but a spokesman said people due to travel out next week would be unaffected by events.

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