29 dead after tour bus crash on Portugal island

Injured passengers are taken from the bus after the crash on Madeira Island. Photo: Global...
Injured passengers are taken from the bus after the crash on Madeira Island. Photo: Global Imagens via AP

A bus carrying German tourists has crashed on Portugal's Madeira Island, killing 29 people and injuring 28 others, local authorities have confirmed.

The bus, which was carrying 55 people, rolled down a steep hillside on Wednesday after veering off the road on a bend east of the capital, Funchal, and struck at least one house, local mayor Filipe Sousa told cable news channel SIC.

Madeira, off northwestern Africa, is a popular vacation destination for Europeans due to its mild climate and lush, hilly landscape.

The mayor said the bus was carrying a group of Germans.  The dead included 18 women and 11 men, one of whom died later at a hospital, Sousa told public broadcaster RTP.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said preliminary reports he had received indicated all the dead were German.

But Tomasia Alves, head of the Funchal hospital, said not all the victims had been identified and refused to confirm the nationality of those killed.

It was not known if anyone not on the bus, including people on the roadside at the time of the accident, were among the victims.

However, no children were among the dead and injured, Alves said. 

The German foreign ministry, in a tweet, expressed "great shock" at the accident. "We must unfortunately assume that victims are from Germany," it said.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a tweet that he had sent condolences to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "I learned of this tragic accident in Madeira with deep sorrow."

Merkel's spokesman said "terrible news is reaching us from Madeira." Steffen Seibert said on Twitter that "we are in deepest sorrow over all those who lost their lives in the bus crash." He added: "Our thoughts are with the injured."

Madeira's regional government announced three days of mourning, when flags on public buildings are flown at half-staff.

Residents said the weather was fine at the time of the accident, which happened in daylight in the early evening.

Calado, the regional government's vice president, said the bus was five years old and had passed its mandatory inspections for roadworthiness.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the crash.

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