On Saturday, February 20th 2010, a massive deluge descended upon the mountain villages surrounding Funchal, Madeira’s capital city. Eight hours of pounding rain battered the island, equaling the sum total of a month’s worth of precipitation. The storm resulted in deadly mountain mudslides and flash floods which took the lives of 42 people, with many injured and 29 still missing as of this writing (2/25). The island of Madeira has 240,000 inhabitants but also a large tourist population, as Funchal is a thriving cruise ship destination spot.
A local mall featuring a large underground parking garage was feared to contain many more bodies, trapped inside vehicles that had been submerged by the unexpected and extremely fast moving deep murky water that flowed from the mountains (6,000 ft. peaks) downhill to downtown Funchal. Rescue efforts began right away supported by mainland Portugal’s government and with expected assistance from other EU countries to follow.
These following videos have footage of the initial onslaught of the water that destroyed bridges, roadways, homes and many automobiles, leaving the island devastated; in addition to later clips which show the aftermath and early cleanup efforts:
I have been researching the best way for those of us who would like to help the people of Madeira, find a suitable way to do so, and it has been difficult as most require bank transfers which is the least “user friendly” method I can think of. I am not one to normally get involved in telling others how or where to donate their hard earned money. So, all I will say is that while doing my homework, I finally came across one website that caters to UK travelers to Madeira, however this site has a Funchal-based disaster relief fund which makes donating online feasible.
You can investigate this organization too, before making your own contribution, but from all that I’ve seen this is not only legitimate, but it is in English, easy to understand and offers solid options for making donations. I am sure there are probably other humanitarian efforts worthy of your support too, but again ... this seems to be the best I could find. Please do check for yourself. Madeira Times Disaster Relief Fund Site