Madeira tour bus crash leaves 29 German tourists dead

A bus crash on the Portuguese island of Madeira has left 29 German tourists dead and 28 injured after it plunged off a road.

The mayor of Santa Cruz, Filipe Sousa, confirmed 11 men and 18 women were killed in the crash near Caniçoat at around 6.30pm local time (6.30pm BST) on Wednesday.

A foreign ministry statement said the crash "claimed the lives of 29 German citizens."

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.

The Portuguese driver and guide both survived and have been taken to hospital.

One survivor, Heinz Gaden, explained what happened in the aftermath of the crash, he said: "Some people were crying for help but not so loud. It was rather quiet. Many people were lying outside and we saw that some of them were dead."

People at the roadside are also thought to be among the injured.

The bus was carrying 55 people when it veered off a road on a bend east of the capital, Funchal, before rolling down a steep hillside on Wednesday, Mr Sousa said.

The vehicle hit at least one house after coming off the road. Video footage shows the bus has since been removed from the scene.

Authorities said they are investigating the cause and would inspect the bus for mechanical problems.

The bus was pulled from the crash site before dawn on Thursday, which was lying on its side with part of its roof torn off.

The bus crash has left 29 people dead and 28 injured. Credit: AP

Tomasia Alves, head of the Funchal hospital, said authorities hope to have a list of victims by Saturday, but the victims were between 40 and 60 years old and included no children.

"Several people were taken to Cruz de Carvalho hospital and some are being assisted at the site," said the mayor.

Local residents said the weather was fine at the time of the accident.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a tweet that he had sent condolences to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "I learned of this tragic accident in Madeira with deep sorrow," he said.

The German foreign ministry, in a tweet, expressed "great shock" at the accident.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas said he was "deeply shaken by the tragic bus crash".

He was due to travel to Madeira to meet his Portuguese counterpart.

Emergency services rushed to the scene of the crash on the Portuguese island of Madeira. Credit: AP
The bus was carrying 55 people when it veered off a road on a bend. Credit: EBU

Merkel's spokesman said "terrible news is reaching us from Madeira."

Steffen Seibert said on Twitter that "we are in deepest sorrow over all those who lost their lives in the bus crash."

He added: "Our thoughts are with the injured."

Madeira's regional government announced three days of mourning, when flags on public buildings are flown at half-staff.