Heartbroken families challenge “deafening silence” over who is to blame for Madeira treefall tragedy

Three days after the terrible carnage at Madeira’s busiest religious summer festival (click here), heartbroken families are demanding answers.

They want to see authorities apportion blame to those responsible for allowing an obviously unsafe and enormous tree to remain in place, threatening so many lives.

But no-one wants to even accept that the tree was on their land.

According to reports, the council claims the tree belonged to the Diocese, while the Diocese has contracted Lisbon-based law firm Carlos Pinto Abreu to “analyse, with necessary rigour, the council deliberations and agreements established, to see if these have any juridical validity”.

As tabloid Correio da Manhã explains, the issue has become a classic “blame game” in which all involved appear to be trying to pass the buck.

In a series of box stories and updates, CM suggests the regional government of Madeira “thanked various entities” for their efforts in providing emergency help after the horror, but “ignored the council”.

Funchal’s mayor Paul Cafôfo is a name on everyone’s lips, though he maintains that the council knew nothing about the risks posed by the massive tree, and that while the council was responsible for its management, it was not the owner of the land on which the tree stood.

The Public Ministry is believed to have opened an inquiry, but as of yesterday (Thursday), no representatives had been seen working the site.

Meantime, the first funerals have started going ahead.

The son of Ana Freitas, buried today, told CM: “The council knew these trees were dangerous. But no-one cared. Someone now has to assume responsibility. There have to be guilty parties”.

It is a sentiment resounding over social media, where the Facebook page Ocorrências na Madeira is full of tributes to the victims – and fury over the time it is taking to start independent investigations.

Indeed, the council began its own apparent investigations on Wednesday only to be stopped by the Public Ministry.

As local paper DIARIO explained, the council’s intervention came under fire “as it is one of the possible entities that could be facing criminal and civil responsibilities for the accident”.

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Photo: LUSA