12 crushed to death, 35 hurt as tree crushes worshippers
AT LEAST 12 people have been crushed to death when a 200-year-old oak tree fell at a religious festival on the Portuguese island of Madeira, local media reports say.
Broadcaster RTP said at least 35 people were injured when the tree toppled into a crowd near a church on the island's southern coast.
Amateur video posted online showed the tree smashing down, prompting panicked worshippers to flee.
Thick foliage is later seen carpeting the floor as rescuers tend to the injured.
The Church of Our Lady of Monte, in a suburb of the capital Funchal, is the site of an annual religious gathering attended by large crowds of worshippers who flock there from across Madeira in honour of Mary, the island's patron saint.
Catholics around the world mark Assumption Day on August 15, which according to Christian tradition marks the Virgin Mary's death and the assent of the mother of Jesus Christ to heaven.
The crowd had gathered near the church by a fountain, which is surrounded by tall trees, to light candles in honour of Mary, SIC Noticias reported. Madeira is the largest of several Portuguese islands in the north Atlantic Ocean.