- Title: PORTUGAL: Madeira homeless shelter in military base as more aid, tourists arrive
- Date: 23rd February 2010
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (English) DUTCH TOURIST, PETRA SAYING: "Ah we, I had no choice. The insurance don't pay it back so we thought ok, we come and maybe it's better now. We hope." VARIOUS OF TOURISTS WAITING FOR BAGGAGE VARIOUS OF EXTERIOR OF MADEIRA AIRPORT
- Embargoed: 10th March 2010 19:23
- Location: Portugal
- Country: Portugal
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes,Travel / Tourism
- Reuters ID: LVA1BG2GLVCGB5VRSBTV3LETZMJS
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: At least 300 people left homeless by devastating flash floods in Madeira are given temporary shelter in the island's military base, as technicians arrive to help rebuild telecommunications, and some tourists chance a visit to the battered Portuguese island.
At least 300 people sought temporary shelter at Madeira's military base on Monday (February 22) after violent floods and mudslides killed at least 42 people on the Portuguese resort island, as more assistance and tourists arrived.
Officials said they feared more bodies had been washed away into the ocean after Saturday's deluge, and flew in divers from the mainland to search for those drowned. Rescue work carried on late into Sunday.
Regional Tourism and Transport Secretary Conceicao Estudante told a briefing four people were still missing.
Miguel Albuquerque, the mayor of Madeira's capital Funchal, said some areas above the city were particularly badly hit, likening the scene to Dante's Inferno.
Some taking refuge said that even though their houses were still standing , they were too unsafe or filled with mud.
"I was very afraid because we could feel the water passing under the house. The house is always shaking. Going home is out of the question," said Andreia Mendonca, a woman who had to be evacuated from her house.
"I cannot get to my house and conditions there are not secure for my children and my wife," said another evacuee, Joao Gomes.
Saturday's heavy rainstorm unleashed floods and mudslides on the Atlantic island, washing bridges and burying some houses under tonnes of mud.
"There was a collapse and the house ended full of mud, there is mud everywhere," said Dinarte who was also left homeless by the flash floods.
Francisco Ramos, the regional secretary for social affairs, said there were 42 confirmed deaths on Madeira, which lies some 1,000 km (625 miles) southwest of Lisbon and is famous for its sandy beaches and fortified wine of the same name.
The government decreed three days of mourning and called an extraordinary cabinet meeting for Monday to discuss the worst loss of life in Portugal since a bridge over the Douro River collapsed in 2001, killing 59 people.
Many roads in Madeira were partially destroyed or blocked with rocks, trees and mud. It took civil protection services more than 24 hours to reach the village of Curral das Freiras, which had been cut off. Officials said one person had been killed and one was missing there.
Officials said about 120 people were injured and 300 spent the night in temporary shelters. Some 240 lost their homes.
Teams of doctors, military troops and telecoms technicians were sent after Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates declared the island a disaster area and pledged all aid that the regional government required.
James Inacio, team leader for Portugal Telecoms said that they had been called in to help repair what was destroyed.
"We came with some technicians from the continent, to help rebuild what has been destroyed. No major issues but some fields have to dealt with. Basically, most, I'd say 90 percent of telecommunications have been assured now. They are working. And we are now going to do some more tactical movements and major issues," said Inacio.
Alberto Joao Jardim, the leader of the regional government, said there had been "no serious incident" involving the tourism sector on the island, but a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said later a British national had been killed. She would not provide details.
Many tourists on Madeira, which held its popular annual Carnival parades last week, were Britons visiting for the half-term school holiday.
More tourists, prepared to take their chances, arrived on Monday.
Dutch tourist Antoinnette said she almost cancelled her holiday but later decided against it.
"We did think of not coming because in the news there was only the big flood in Funchal with the cars coming down from the mountains so, so the image we got at first hand it was very bad, very severe. And when the casualties raised we thought well, perhaps this is not an island we should go on our holiday. Now. We did, we know that Madeira needs the tourism but perhaps now they have other things on their mind. But we had contact with our tour operator and they had contact with the local accommodation around the island and they said it was doable, that the central Funchal was very badly hurt, very badly, not accessible but that the roads were being cleared, and that well we could still enjoy Madeira although this bad disaster happened."
Other tourists simply felt they had no choice.
"I had no choice. The insurance don't pay it back so we thought ok, we come and maybe it's better now. We hope," said Petra, also from the Netherlands.
Meteorologists said the amount of rainfall that fell in one day on Saturday exceeded the monthly average, but no heavy rainfall was expected on Madeira over the next few days.
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