Footage of moment 12 people were killed by a falling tree during a religious festival on the Portuguese island of Madeira has emerged this afternoon. At least 50 people were injured, including a baby in a pram, when a 200 years old oak came down over dozens of revellers waiting to buy candles outside a church. The incident took place at Festa da Senhora do Monte, a festival celebrating the island’s patron saint in Monte, a village near Madeira’s capital Funchal.
Video filmed by a witness shows crowd enjoying themselves before a large creaking noise can be heard, followed by moments of panic as tree comes down, sending up a shower of dust and debris. Seconds later people, a man with a baby in his arms, could be seen sprinting for safety amid uncertainty at what had happened. Others who had loved ones near spot where the tree came down could be seen running towards scene of tragedy. TV footage from scene showed police and firefighters stood near uprooted tree along with Red Cross workers. People who were hit by tree were waiting for a street procession to begin after a church mass.
Tree that came down is understood to be in an area where candles were being sold, meaning it was packed with people. A witness who was selling candles near to spot where tree fell, said ‘It felt like gunshots at first. We just saw people trying to run away, jumping on top of others, and then the tree fell and I saw six people already lying motionless on the ground. It was something that will mark me for the rest of my life. I only had time to run with all the panic. Some people were hit by others. It was terrible.’
The local, who was not named, said ‘The procession was leaving the church and a lot of people were at the spot where the tree fell buying candles to follow the procession. I would say hundreds of people were there.’ Several people are said to have been taken to island’s Nelio Mendonca Hospital with ‘fractures and head injuries.’ The traditional procession which forms part of festival, held annually in celebration of patron saint of Madeira, Nossa Senhora do Monte, has been cancelled. There is no information at this stage on nationalities of the dead and injured, but festival is known to attract an international crowd.