Falling tree kills dozen in Portugal


August 16, 2017
Emergency services move an injured person to an ambulance after a tree fell on a a large crowd gathered as part of a traditional religious festival in the outskirts of Funchal, the capital of Madeira island, Portugal. Portuguese media has reported that several people have died crushed by the falling tree. (Catarina Nunes/Diario de Noticias da Madeira, via AP)

LISBON, Portugal (AP):

A tree that fell during a popular religious festival on the Portuguese island of Madeira killed at least 12 people, Portuguese authorities said yesterday.

Regional health chief Pedro Ramos said 52 others were injured in the accident near the island capital of Funchal.

The tree fell while a large crowd was gathered as part of a traditional religious festival. The Nossa Senhora do Monte festival is Madeira's biggest annual festivity.

Held August 14 and 15, it draws large crowds to a church on Funchal's outskirts.

RTP public television showed images of emergency workers gathered under a group of tall trees on the Atlantic island.

Ambulances were shown pulling away from the site, while workers wielding chainsaws cut away limbs from an enormous tree on the ground.

More televised images showed some people attending to the injured. Others appeared visibly shaken.

The regional government of Madeira has declared three days of mourning for the victims.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa shared his condolences for the victims on his Twitter account.

"I express my condolences for the victims of the accident in Madeira," Costa said. "My thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims."