British woman, 50, feared dead after floods and mudslides kill at least 42 on island of MadeiraBy Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 11:28 PM on 21st February 2010
BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME
Cristiano Ronaldo marks his goal against Villarreal by making clear his solidarity with his home island, wracked by floods
A British holidaymaker is feared dead in flash floods on the island of Madeira which have claimed at least 42 lives.
Another 120 people were injured and many more are missing.
Pamela Gaines, 50, was travelling between hotels with her husband George, 54, and two British friends when their taxi was hit by a torrent of water from a swollen river.
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Rescue team members take a dead body from the mud in Ribeira Brava after heavy rains and strong winds hit Madeira Island
People view a street in Funchal where cars lay buried under debris after heavy floodingMrs Gaines and the taxi driver were swept away and both were later found dead.
Her husband and his friend Roger Wilson escaped with minor injuries but Mr Wilson's wife Gillian was in hospital last night with multiple injuries to her chest, abdomen and legs. Her condition was said to be serious but not life-threatening.
Mr Gaines is a director of two agricultural companies, Woldvale Agronomy and Prodar Surveys and the family home is a large detached house near Driffield in East Yorkshire.
Madeira is popular with UK holidaymakers, but the Foreign Office said last night it had received no other reports of Britons being hurt by the floods and mudslides on Saturday, which followed hours of torrential rain.
The two British couples, who were holidaying together, were travelling in the hills above the Madeiran capital, Funchal.
People walk along a flooded street in downtown Funchal, Madeira in the aftermath of the floods
A man is pulled from the flood in Madeira: At least 40 people have died in the mudslides caused by torrential rainA local boy died at the same spot after trying to flee with his mother when their car was caught up in the flood.
His father Norberto Castro told how he saw his five-year-old son Rui Norberto and wife Eulalia swept away. She is still missing. He said: 'The car began to slide and I couldn't control it. I told my wife to make a run for it with our child.
'I saw them fighting against the water and I saw a man trying to help them. Then they were swept away by the water and I didn't see them again.'
Portuguese officials said they expected the death toll to rise. Hundreds of people have been left homeless by the worst tragedy to hit Madeira for a century.
Parts of Funchal resembled the aftermath of a tsunami. Cars were piled on top of one another in streets covered in mud, rocks and stones.
The debris of a taxi is seen lodged between the roofs of two buildings after heavy flooding in Funchal, Madeira
Flood water rushes towards Funchal harbour: The Portuguese government is considering whether to declare a state of emergency in the region
Military personnel look for flood survivors in a building along the streets of downtown FunchalGerman tourist Andreas Hoisser said: 'It was horrible, there were cars on rooftops, there were vans and trucks that had been totally crushed'.
Hotels in the main tourist area of Funchal escaped the worst flooding and were getting-back to normal last night. Madeira's most famous son, former Manchester United footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, spoke of his devastation and offered to help victims.
Most of his immediate family were in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, where his sister has given just birth. Ronaldo said: 'No-one, especially me as I was born and grew up in Madeira, can remain indifferent to this calamity. I am ready to help out in any way I can.'
A submerged car on a destroyed downtown Funchal street
People look at cars carried down a hillside by floodwaters outside Funchal: Local authorities called in employees to operate heavy machinery like bulldozers to clear roads and remove debrisBritish holidaymaker Cathy Sayers said Funchal was like a ghost town and that the infrastructure had been wrecked.
She told the BBC: 'The drains just cannot cope with the water that's coming down from the mountains - they are just overfilled with sludge.
'There wasn't really any warning, particularly any warning that it would be quite so bad because it is exceptional for this island.'
Ricardo Macedo, a rep for Bournemouth tour operator Palmair, said: ‘There’s a Dunkirk spirit in Funchal. As far as I know all 93 of my clients are safe. Most of Funchal is without fresh water.’
A man and a dog walk by as people recover their belongings from a taxi damaged by the heavy flooding
People look on as a street with vehicles is engulfed by heavy flooding in Funchal
Aftermath: Swept-away cars and debris piled up to first-floor balconiesTV footage showed torrents of fast-moving, mud-filled water tearing through the streets of the capital Funchal, dragging cars and nearly sweeping away two policemen.
Parts of the island were isolated by blocked roads and downed bridges as winds reached 70mph early yesterday. Electricity and phone links were also cut.
The Portuguese government is considering whether to declare a state of emergency in the region.
'We're overwhelmed by calls from people asking for help after the torrential rains,' a duty officer at the civil protection service said.
The island’s government said it was finding temporary accommodation for hundreds left homeless by the flooding.
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, state-run Lusa news agency said.
In Funchal, the airport has been closed and the city's mayor advised residents to stay at home.
Prime Minister Jose Socrates expressed his 'profound shock' at the size of the calamity affecting Madeira.
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.
Mr Socrates promised that help would be sent from the Portuguese mainland.