MADRID – Flooding and landslides swept away cars and knocked down houses as a violent storm killed at least 32 people Saturday on the Portuguese island of Madeira, a news agency reported.
Madeira is the main island of a Portuguese archipelago of the same name, in the Atlantic off the northwest coast of Africa.
Floods tore down houses as the storm hit early Saturday. Roads were blocked by fallen trees and rocks carried by flood waters, and some bridges were also downed, Lusa said.
Phone lines were knocked out, forcing emergency rescue services to appeal over local radio stations for off-duty doctors and nurses to report for duty.
Local authorities called in employees to operate heavy machinery like bulldozers to clear roads and remove debris. People in low-lying areas of Funchal fled as flood waters rose, Lusa said.
Madeira regional president Alberto Joao Jardim spoke to European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, who is Portuguese, to appeal for emergency aid from the European Union.
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates promised that help would be sent from the Portuguese mainland.