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Tree falls on Portugal's Madeira Island, killing 13

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-08-16 10:11

Rescuers work at the site where a 200-year-old oak tree collapsed during a religious procession on the Portuguese island of Madeira, Portugal, on Aug 15, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]

LISBON - Thirteen people are now confirmed dead and 49 others injured after a large tree collapsed on the Portuguese island of Madeira around midday Tuesday, local media reported.

The incident occurred in the Largo da Fonte square in the Monte neighborhood of Funchal, capital of the autonomous region of Madeira, as crowds assembled for the Our Lady of the Mount religious procession.

Ten people were killed instantly and a further three died in hospital. One child is confirmed to be among the dead and six of the injured are said to be in a serious condition.

Regional Secretary of Health, Pedro Ramos, has confirmed that five people of German, French, Dutch and Hungarian nationals are among those injured.

It is not yet known why the tree fell. President of the Regional Government, Miguel Albuquerque, refused to be drawn on speculation that the tree was in a poor state of repair or whether another tree fell three months ago. He said that the priority for the moment was to support the injured and the families of the victims, and he declared three days of mourning throughout the region, starting on Wednesday.

Locals told the Portuguese Lusa News Agency that the tree, a 200-year-old oak, had been tied back with metal wire for the past two years, but not tied to anything, and that the trunk was hollow.

The Funchal Town Hall has confirmed that specialists will examine the scene of the tragedy Wednesday and seek to establish a cause, working in conjunction with the Institute of Agronomy. A source at the Atorney General's Office informed Lusa that the public prosecution service has setup an inquest.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa expressed his condolences to the victims and President Marcelo Rebola de Sousa flew straight to the island. "What has happened has shocked me. I really felt it. There's a need to show support to the people of Madeira," he said.

"At this moment, a moment of pain, what's important is to show solidarity, offer comfort and be with those who are suffering," he added.

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