Several people killed by falling tree at Portuguese festival

It happened during an annual celebration in Madeira

Several people killed by falling tree at Portuguese festival

Firefighters hold a blanket as bodies are removed from the scene where a tree fell on a large crowd on the outskirts of Funchal, the capital of Madeira island, Portugal | Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated: 17.40

At least 12 people have been crushed to death and 52 others injured by a falling tree at a festival in Portugal.

TV footage from Madeira showed emergency workers gathered under a group of tall trees near the Portuguese island's capital, Funchal.

The tragedy happened during the Celebration of Our Lady of the Mount festival, which is the island's biggest annual celebration.

RTP television is reporting that "many people were concentrated" in the area at the time - and a further 35 people are believed to be injured, four of them seriously.

Two children are feared to be among those who died when the 200-year-old oak tree came down on worshipping crowds.

The Roman Catholic festival marks the Assumption - or entry into heaven - of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The moment the tree fell was captured on a Facebook Live broadcast - and the video showed many people running for their lives.

"It was terrible, it was so sudden," one witness told SIC television.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said his government had offered its support to authorities on the island.

He tweeted: "I express my condolences for the victims of the accident in Madeira.

"My thoughts are with the family and friends of the victims.

"The government has provided medical support given the high number of victims."

The Department of Foreign Affairs say they are checking the situation, but are not aware of any Irish people involved at this stage.