12 Die As Tree Falls At Portugal Religious Festival

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At least 12 people were crushed to death today when a 200-year-old oak tree fell at a religious festival on the Portuguese island of Madeira.

The public RTP television channel said at least 35 people were injured when the tree toppled into a crowd near a church on the island’s southern coast.

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.

RTP said authorities would release an official toll later today, while the Diario de Noticias da Madeira newspaper said 10 people had been killed and 15 injured, citing rescuers at the scene.

A security perimeter had been set up around the church, where worried worshippers were gathered waiting anxiously for news.

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