Portugal govt promises financial aid to Madeira
* Finance minister to visit on Tuesday
By Miguel Pereira
FUNCHAL, Portugal, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Portugal's government promised on Monday to quickly send financial aid to the resort island of Madeira, where violent floods and mudslides killed 42 people at the weekend, officials said.
Rescue workers have scrambled to find survivors and clean up after torrential rains on Saturday turned streams into gushing rivers that blasted through the island's capital city, overturning cars, destroying houses and blocking roads.
"At the national level and at the EU level, we will put into action all necessary help," Interior Minister Rui Pereira told journalists after a special cabinet meeting of the government on the disaster, which declared three days of mourning.
He said Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos would travel to Madeira on Tuesday to talk to regional authorities: "Tomorrow there could be an evaluation" of the cost of the damage."
Pereira said the death toll was unchanged at 42 though officials have warned it could climb as the clean up progresses. Some remote villages on the island have not been reached yet because of blocked roads.
The government said it would ask for solidarity funds from the European Union to help rebuild infrastructure on the island, which lies some 1,000 km (625 miles) southwest of Lisbon and receives thousands of northern European tourists every year.
Saturday's heavy rainstorm unleashed floods and mudslides on the Atlantic island, washing bridges and burying some houses under tonnes of mud.
One British national was killed in the disaster, the worst loss of life in Portugal since a bridge over the Douro River collapsed in 2001, killing 59 people.
Officials said about 120 people were injured and some 240 lost their homes and four are still missing.
"I cannot go to my house and conditions there are not secure for my children and my wife," Madeira resident Joao Gomes told Reuters television.
At least one village on the island has been evacuated and there was intermittent rain on Monday, although nothing near the magnitude on Saturday when more rain fell in a day than the average for the month.
Officials are closely watching weather forecasts, which have indicated no heavy rain for Madeira in coming days, but Portugal's winter has been unusually wet.
Real Madrid soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, Madeira's most famous son, said he would play in a special charity match for Madeira organised by Portuguese champions Porto. (Reporting by Axel Bugge; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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