Yorkshire woman swept away as holiday isle floods

THE family of an East Yorkshire woman who was killed in floods on the holiday island of Madeira said today there were no words to describe their loss.

Pamela Gaines, 53, from Garton-on-the-Wolds, near Driffield, was swept away when the taxi she and her husband, George, were in was engulfed by water in the capital Funchal.

Mr Gaines, who is also known as Philip, was said to have received minor injuries.

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Today, the family of Mrs Gaines released a statement through Humberside Police.

They said: "We are all shocked and deeply saddened with no words beginning to describe what we have lost.

"We would all ask that the media respect our privacy as we come to terms with our loss as no further comments will be made."

Earlier, people in the small village of Garton-on-the-Wolds spoke of their shock at Mrs Gaines's death.

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The couple were said to be well-known in the village, with agronomist Mr Gaines helping out with odd-jobs, such as weed-killing, in the churchyard of St Michael's Church.

Reverend John Tallant, the vicar at the Norman church, said he had met Mrs Gaines and described her death as "very sad" and "a blow" for the village.

Staff at Wold Vale Agronomy, where Mr Gaines is believed to be a director, were said to be devastated by the news.

Another couple travelling in the taxi with Mr and Mrs Gaines are believed to have received minor injuries, while the taxi driver was also reportedly swept to his death.

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At least 42 people have been killed and more than 120 injured in the floods and mudslides which started after heavy rainfall on Saturday.

A "small number" of Britons, understood to be less than five, were being treated in hospital.

Peter Ramos, of Hospital Cruz de Carvalho, said of the 120 patients received on Saturday three were from the UK.

One woman remained in hospital with multiple injuries, while two men sustained minor injuries and had been discharged.

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The torrents of water and mud wrecked bridges on the hilly island, and littered roads with cars, trees and rocks.

Ricardo Macedo, manager of Hotel Monte Carlo in Funchal, said the floods were the worst he could remember in his life time, with three inches of rain falling in an hour.

He said: "The water was absolutely incredible, just outside my house it was two to three feet deep, it looked like something you'd see on a white water rafting trip.

"I saw a car go down my street without a driver, then end up in a pile at the bottom. This struck mid-morning when people were out shopping."

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Madeira - which is the main island of an archipelago around 300 miles off the north-west coast of Africa - is a popular winter sun destination for British holidaymakers.

Such has been the body count on the normally tranquil destination that the authorities had to use the international airport as a makeshift mortuary.

Phone lines were also disabled, forcing the emergency services to appeal over local radio stations for off-duty doctors and nurses to report for work.

The island's most famous son, former Manchester United player Ronaldo, expressed his horror at the floods.

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He told journalists in Madrid: "Nobody can remain indifferent to the disaster.

"I want to express my willingness to, as far as I can, help agencies and authorities to overcome the effects of this devastation."

Tourists were being advised to stay indoors over the weekend.

The Foreign Office said it was "strongly" advising Britons heading out there to contact their tour operators before travelling.

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Funchal residents and visitors face a lack of fresh water until the destroyed infrastructure is repaired, the head of water services said.

Pimenta de Franca said: "One of the main conduits of the city, which is upstream of most of the public distribution systems, has simply disappeared."

Portugal flew emergency rescue crews and equipment to the Atlantic island yesterday.

The Portuguese civil protection agency said a medical team backed up by divers and rescue experts headed out on a C-130 transport plane.

Regional president Alberto Joao Jardim has appealed for emergency aid from the European Union.

Island authorities said the storm, the worst to hit Madeira for 17 years, has displaced 250 people.

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