Portugal says all 29 dead in bus crash were German
LISBON, Portugal (AP) — All the 29 people killed in a tour bus crash on Portugal’s Madeira Island were German, Portugal’s foreign ministry confirmed Thursday.
The bus carrying 55 people, all German tourists except a Portuguese driver and guide, rolled down a steep hill after veering off the road on a bend east of Madeira’s capital, Funchal, on Wednesday evening when it was still light and in fine weather. The crash injured 28 others.
A foreign ministry statement reiterated the government’s condolences to the families of victims, and said the crash “claimed the lives of 29 German citizens.”
Authorities said they are investigating the cause and would inspect the bus for mechanical problems.
Portuguese officials had previously said they had not yet identified the victims by name or nationality.
People at the roadside are also thought to be among the injured.
Tomasia Alves, head of the Funchal hospital, said authorities hope to have a list of victims by Saturday. She said the victims were roughly between 40 and 60 years old and included no children.
She said 28 people were taken from the accident scene to a morgue, and another person died later in hospital.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he was “deeply shaken by the tragic bus crash.” He was due to travel to Madeira on Thursday afternoon and meet his Portuguese counterpart there.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed “sadness and shock” at the accident. “My sincere sympathy goes especially to all of the families who have lost their loved ones in this tragedy,” she said.
Rescue services used two cranes before dawn Thursday to pull the bus, which was lying on its side with part of its roof torn off, from the crash site, local media reported.
The wall of a house, which appeared to have halted the bus’s fall, was smashed in. Parts of the bus, including seats, and items of clothing littered the grassy hillside, which looks out over the Atlantic Ocean.
The tourists reportedly were staying at the nearby Quinta Splendida, a hotel restored from a 19th-century manor house.
Madeira, off the coast from northwest Africa, is a popular vacation destination for Europeans due to its mild climate and lush, hilly landscape.
A German pastor on Madeira praised the medics who cared for the survivors.
Ilse Everlien Berardo told German broadcaster n-tv Thursday the survivors she spoke to were “in a state of shock.”
She said Madeira officials “immediately looked for people on the island who speak German.”
“Even though the doctors and nurses cared touchingly for the injured it’s also always important to hear your mother tongue and get a few words of attention,” she said.
AP reporter Frank Jordans contributed from Berlin.