Portuguese Mudslides Leave Dozens Dead

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Residents are cleaning up after floods and mudslides engulfed the Portuguese holiday island of Madeira. Dozens are dead and scores are injured after powerful rainstorms unleashed rivers of hillside mud, inundating several towns below.

Ribeira Brava and the regional capital Funchal were among the worst hit areas. Television pictures showed roiling torrents of mud and boulders surging through the narrow streets of Funchal.

The deluge felled trees, washed away bridges, and spat out crushed cars. People watched in stunned disbelief as their town was transformed before their eyes.

The Portuguese Prime Minister rushed to Madeira to assess the damage and coordinate aid. Jose Socrates said he was profoundly shocked and saddened by the calamity.

[Jose Socrates, Portugal Prime Minister]:
"We offer to the president of the regional government of Madeira all the help they need, so that, Madeira can begin work immediately on recovery, in the coming days."

A Portuguese naval ship, equipped with medical supplies, is on its way to the island, which lies about 1000 km from the mainland.

Specialised military rescue units are helping to search for victims. Authorities are warning the death toll will rise.

Tour operators are advising tourists not to leave their hotels. It's not clear if any foreign nationals are among the casualties.

Parts of the island are cut off and it'll be some days before the full extent of the damage is known.

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