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12 Killed as Tree Falls at Catholic Festival in Portugal

Lisbon (August 16, 2017): At least twelve people were killed and 50 others injured when an enormous tree fell Tuesday in Madeira.

The tree came down during an important Catholic celebration on the island, regional Health Secretary Pedro Ramos said in a televised news conference.

The dead and injured had gathered to honor Our Lady of the Mountain at a church in a village near the island’s main city of Funchal, Ramos said. Tuesday marked the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when Catholics celebrate the assumption of the body Jesus Christ’s mother into heaven. It is one of six Catholic holy days of obligation.

Video from the scene shows a massive tree crashing down as a panicked crowd screams and flees. The tree was a 200-year-old oak, local media reported.

A little girl was among those killed, Ramos said, adding that seven of the injured were in serious condition, with three people expected to require surgery. Three foreign nationals — one each from France, Germany and Hungary — were are among the injured, he said.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was expected to arrive Tuesday on the island, said the president of the regional government, Miguel Albuquerque. Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa offered his condolences on Twitter.

Madeira, a popular tourist destination dubbed the “pearl of the Atlantic,” is the largest of several Portuguese islands in the North Atlantic.

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