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Madeira: Tree fall kills festival worshippers in Portugal

Portuguese authorities have reported 13 fatalities after a huge tree fell during a popular religious festival on the island of Madeira. The Festival of Nossa Senhora do Monte draws thousands of visitors.

The Portuguese government raised the death toll to 13 on Tuesday evening with 49 people injured after a huge, 200-year-old oak tree fell on to people gathered for the festival earlier in the day at a church on the outskirts of Funchal.

Portugal's President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa expressed his condolences for the victims of the
accident and said he would be going to the island. 

"I will go to Funchal today to learn more about what has happened, and, of course, to bring words of encouragement and comfort to those who have lost their loved ones," de Sousa said. 

The head of the regional government of Madeira, Miguel Albuquerque, declared three days of mourning for the victims.

Portuguese tradition

The incident occurred during the Festival of Nossa Senhora do Monte, considered one of the most famous of the island's religious gatherings.

The event draws thousands of visitors from across Portugal and the world.

Nearly every village in the country has its own religious festival or pilgrimage, making it home to hundreds of such gatherings, many of which celebrate harvests and local saints.

Watch video 04:38

Portugal's flourishing traditions | Euromaxx

ls/rc (AP, dpa)

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