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At least 38 die in mudslide on Portuguese island of Madeira

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Dozens killed in flooding
  • NEW: Portuguese military has dispatched five teams to help with search and rescue efforts
  • NEW: Weather has substantially improved, civil protection official says
  • Madeira hit by heavy downpours overnight, triggering mudslide that killed at least 38
  • Unknown number of people, perhaps dozens, are missing, official tells CNN
  • Natural Disasters
  • Floods
  • Portugal

(CNN) -- At least 38 people have died in mudslides on the Portuguese island of Madeira, which was hit by heavy downpours overnight, an official told CNN on Saturday.

Pedro Barbosa, the vice president of the Civil Protection Agency in Madeira, told CNN that an unknown number of people were missing -- perhaps dozens, he said.

The mudslides and flooding caused substantial damage to roads and homes in the capital, Funchal, and in Ribeira Brava, which are both on the southern portion of the Atlantic island, which lies about 600 miles southwest of Portugal, Barbosa said.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates and Interior Minister Rui Pereira arrived on the island on Saturday, according to CNN affiliate Radio e Televisao de Portugal (RTP).

Video: Deadly mudslide

Socrates told RTP that "the situation is under control" and the government is offering all its support to regional authorities. The country's president, Cavaco Silva, expressed his condolences to the people of Madeira in a televised statement and promised to do everything to help "during this difficult time."

Pedro Ramos of Dr. Nelio Mendonca Hospital in Funchal, told CNN that 68 wounded people were hospitalized from the mudslides and flooding. Three were critical, he said. The vice president of Madeira's regional government had tallied 68 victims with injuries, according to the official Lusa news agency.

The floodwaters overturned cars and knocked down trees, Barbosa said. Authorities have evacuated hundreds of people to military and civil protection facilities in Funchal, he said.

Search and rescue teams have been reinforced, but haven't been able to reach every area, according to the Civil Protection Agency.

The Portuguese military has dispatched five teams to help with search and rescue efforts, it announced on its Web site. The military is also ready to shelter up to 130 people where 50 people are already staying, it said.

Barbosa said weather conditions have substantially improved, with the rains winding down.

Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal, is a popular resort destination. There have been no reports of any dead or missing tourists.

CNN's Umaro Djau contributed to this report.