29 dead in tourist bus crash on Portugal's Madeira Island

Almost all of the fatalities are reportedly German citizens

Photo: EPA Emergency services inspect the scene of the tourist bus crash in Canico, Santa Cruz, Madeira Island.

A tour bus carrying German tourists crashed on Portugal's Madeira Island on Wednesday, killing 29 people and injuring 28 others, local authorities said. The accident happened at 18:30 when the driver lost control of the bus at a junction. The vehicle, which was carrying 55 people, rolled then down a steep hillside after veering off the road on a bend east of the capital, Funchal, and struck at least one house, local mayor Filipe Sousa told cable news channel SIC.

The dead included 18 women and 11 men, one of whom died later at a hospital, Sousa said later. No children were among the dead or injured.

According to Vice-President of Madeira's regional government Pedro Calado the bus met safety standards and so it was "premature to talk about what caused the crash". But an investigation into the crash has been launched, with the bus company, Madeira Automobile Society (SAM), saying it has a "deep commitment" to finding out exactly what happened, local newspaper Diario de Noticias Madeira reported.

In response to the tragedy world leaders and EU officials offered their condolences.

"Our deep sorrow goes to all those who lost their lives in the bus accident, our thoughts are with the injured," the German government Spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted.

"On behalf of the European Commission, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives. I would like to extend sincere thanks to the rescue services and the authorities in Madeira for their swift action on the ground," EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement.

Madeira is a popular vacation destination for Europeans. It was the scene of another fatal bus crash in 2005 when five Italian tourists died in São Vicente, on the northern coast.

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