Heiko Maas, Germany's foreign minister, paid tribute to the victims of a bus crash on the island archipelago of Madeira. He said his team was working to identify the victims and bring survivors back to Germany.
Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited the Portuguese Island of Madeira on Thursday where a bus crash left 29 tourists dead.
Maas traveled with a team of doctors, psychologists and consular officials to meet with Portuguese officials and those affected by the accident. As soon as he landed, the minister headed to the scene of the crash in the coastal town of Canico, where he and his Portuguese counterpart Augusto Santos Silva laid two wreaths in tribute.
"This is a terrible event," Maas told reporters during his visit to the site. "We can't just stay in Germany watching and celebrating Easter."
Maas then visited a hospital in Madeira's capital of Funchal, where 28 survivors were being treated for head, abdominal, chest and other injuries. He said his team was working to bring injured victims back to Germany and to complete the identifications of those who were killed.
"We are doing everything we can to ensure that the injured get better and they are transported to Germany as soon as possible," Maas said on Twitter.
Cause of crash unknown
On Wednesday, a bus carrying 55 tourists, a guide and a driver rolled down a steep hillside after veering off the road. Authorities on the island confirmed all 29 victims were German. They were members of a bigger holiday group, other members of which were on another bus, according to a regional civil protection spokesman.
Two of the 29 injured were Portuguese nationals, a hospital spokesman said. Santos Silva confirmed the two Portuguese were the driver and the tour guide.
Emergency services finished removing the wreckage early Thursday.
The public prosecutor's office has opened an investigation into the crash, the cause of which authorities said they could not yet determine. Local TV channel SIC attributed it to either a brake failure or a problem with the accelerator cable.
The Portuguese government declared three days of mourning in honor of the victims of the crash, lasting until Saturday.
dv/jm (dpa, Reuters)