A German military rescue plane has picked up the survivors of a deadly bus crash on the island of Madeira in Portugal to return them to Germany. The cause of the crash is still not clear.
A Bundeswehr rescue plane on Saturday evacuated several injured German tourists who survived a bus crash on the Portuguese island of Madeira, which killed 29 other German nationals.
A line of ambulances could be seen waiting on a road at the Cologne-Bonn airport in western Germany as the medical plane brought home the survivors.
The Airbus A310 MedEvac aircraft was equipped to transport up to 44 patients and has intensive-care facilities for six people. Sixteen people injured in the crash remained in hospital in the regional capital, Funchal, on Friday, including 14 Germans.
Portugal's government on Thursday decreed three days of national mourning for victims of the crash, which occurred on Wednesday near the town of Canico. The bus, whose passengers were all German tourists, crashed off a road and overturned on a hillside.
The reason for the crash is still unclear, but Portuguese public TV RTP reported that the bus's accelerator may have become stuck and that the driver may have driven deliberately into a wall in a bid to stop the vehicle.
A German survivor of the crash told Portuguese television he believed that the brakes had failed. "I cannot imagine another reason for the crash," he said.
The driver and a guide are reported to be among the injured in hospital.
Identification not complete
The death toll of 29 victims, all German, has been provided by Portuguese authorities. The German government has not yet confirmed the number, saying that the victims must first be identified and relatives notified.
Most of those who died were aged in their 40s and 50s, local authorities said.
Several survivors of the crash attended a Good Friday service in Funchal, at which Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was also present.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also traveled to Madeira on Thursday in the aftermath of the crash.
Madeira is a very popular tourist destination, with more than a million people visiting the Atlantic islands each year.
Read more: How safe is bus travel in Europe?
tj/jm (dpa, AFP)