At least 29 German tourists dead in Portugal bus crash


Emergency personnel work at the site of a tourist bus crash in Caniço, on the Portuguese island of Madeira on April 17, 2019, after 29 German tourists died when their bus went off the road. EFE-EPA / HOMEM GOUVEIA

LISBON.- At least 29 German tourists died Wednesday in a bus crash on the Portuguese island of Madeira when the vehicle went off the highway and flipped over onto a house for as yet unknown reasons.

Twenty-seven people were injured to varying degrees, at least two of them seriously.

The bus belonged to a tourism company and was transporting a group of Germans who were visiting the archipelago, according to local authorities.

«Everything indicates that the victims are of German origin,» said the vice president of the Madeira Regional Government, Pedro Calado, at a press conference. He did not mention any other nationalities.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva also confirmed to local media that the available information about the crash points to the fact that all the fatalities were German.

The Spanish Embassy in Portugal confirmed to EFE that there were no Spaniards among the dead or injured in the accident, which took place about 6:30 pm.

The bus went off the road on a curve on the regional highway and overturned, falling onto a house in the town of Caniço, near Funchal, the capital of the island.

The accident took place in central Caniço, some 300 meters (yards) from the Quinta Esplendida Hotel, where the tourists traveling on the bus were staying.

At least 19 emergency vehicles – from civil protection, the fire department and various ambulance companies – were dispatched to the accident site.

Traveling along with the bus that crashed was another tourist bus, the occupants of which were receiving psychological counseling, given that many of them have friends and relatives among the crash victims, Madeira Health Secretary Pedro Ramos said at the press conference.

Translators have been placed at the disposal of the victims and the passengers in the other bus to facilitate communications with the authorities and Portuguese officials reportedly are in contact with the German Embassy in Portugal to keep them informed of the situation as it develops.

At present, the authorities say they do not know if all the injured were on board the bus that crashed and the circumstances of the accident are under investigation.

Calaso said that the bus was «relatively new,» just five years old, and had passed all the necessary inspections to be allowed to operate on Portuguese roadways.

The 27 people injured, including the bus driver and the tourism guide, who local media said are Portuguese, were transported to a nearby hospital.

Medical authorities reported that 23 people are under observation, two are being treated in the intensive care unit and two others were injured but have been released.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who at first announced that he would travel on Wednesday to the island, decided to postpone his trip to allow the Portuguese air force airplane he was going to travel in be used – instead – to transport the injured, given that it is possible some of them will be taken to Lisbon hospitals.

«I was very sensitive to this priority, which is the need for planes, mainly the Portuguese air force plane I was going to use, which can be used to transport the injured. And since two (planes) are needed, that has priority,» the president said in remarks to the press from his office.

Meanwhile, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on his Twitter account that he had already transmitted his condolences to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

After transporting the injured, the emergency teams will proceed to recover the bodies of the dead at the crash site to transport them to the Legal Medicine Institute, where they will be identified.

The accident was the worst tragedy in terms of the death toll to occur on Madeira since the serious flooding in 2010 that killed more than 40 people.

In 2017, a tree fell on a group of pilgrims on Madeira killing 13 and injuring almost 50.

The worst traffic accident on the island prior to Wednesday’s crash occurred in 1984, when a public bus collided with a tree in downtown Funchal, killing about a dozen people.

Madeira, which has some 250,000 inhabitants, is located in the Atlantic Ocean almost 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the Portuguese coast.

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