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Monday, 22 February 2010

Floods in Funchal

Messages of support from around the diocese are being received in Madeira, which has been hit by devastating floods and mudslides due to torrential rain last weekend. Many telephone lines are still not operating but I reached Tony Hughes-Lewis, one of the Churchwardens at Holy Trinity, Funchal, this morning for an update.

Tony confirmed that the situation has now been declared a national disaster by Portugal and three days of national mourning have been called for. The military are assisting with the clean-up, rescue and relief efforts. The official death toll is 44 (including one British visitor) but a further 250 persons are missing. There is concern for one member of the congregation who is still missing at time of writing.

Funchal is located geographically in a "bowl" and the water from the mountains literally poured in, and the storm drains simply could not cope. The centre of town is now in parts, “head deep” in mud and boulders. There is widespread fear that when underground car parks are cleared even more bodies will be found. Fr Neil Dawson (left), the Priest-in-Charge of Holy Trinity, Funchal has been out to view the stricken areas of town which are now "a mess of water, mud, boulders and debris". The populace of Madeira is very closely-knit. It is highly likely that almost everyone in the population of 240,000 will know someone who has been a casualty of this disaster.

Holy Trinity Church and parsonage have escaped damage. Fr Neil presided at the Sunday service as normal, although attendance was down to about 60 from the usual over 150 as people were advised by the authorities not to venture into Funchal unless absolutely necessary. The service began with a minute's silence to remember the victims of the disaster.

There is a note about the floods on the Diocesan website here. Holy Trinity has a page on its website about the disaster. Here is the link.

Please continue to pray for Madeira.
Gracious God, through your Son you have taught us that nothing in life or in death is able to separate us from your love. Look in mercy on all to whom great sorrow and distress has come through the floods in Madeira. Help those who are injured, support any who are dying. Strengthen the members of the emergency services and all who bring relief and comfort. Console and protect those who have lost loved ones. Give your light in darkness to all who are near to despair, and assure them that you hold all souls in life; through Jesus Christ our Risen Lord.

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