FUNCHAL, Madeira Islands – The number of missing on Madeira has jumped to 32, authorities said Monday, after weekend landslides crashed down the Portuguese vacation island’s steep slopes, smashing into homes and leaving 42 people confirmed dead.

The missing may never be found because they were most likely swept out to sea, officials said. Rescue teams were using sniffer dogs to scour debris and dug cars out of mounds of sludge to see if anyone was inside.

The number of missing was raised from four earlier in the day after local people contacted authorities, said Conceicao Estudante, the regional head of tourism and transport.

”The situation is totally different from this morning,” Estudante told reporters. ”There are now 32 missing people, all of them identified by name.”

Officials said all the 42 confirmed dead were either from Funchal, the island’s capital, or Ribeira Brava, a village at the foot of a valley about 15 kilometers (10 miles) from Funchal. The two oceanside communities bore the brunt of mud and rock slides after a storm Saturday dumped the rainfall of a normal month in just eight hours.

Rescue teams used dogs flown in from Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, to search for the missing.

”We are sifting through the debris,” the president of the island’s region government, Alberto Joao Jardim, said in an interview with broadcaster Radiotelevisao Portuguesa. ”My fear is that the missing will be recorded as (lives lost).”

The Portuguese government announced three days of mourning for the victims of Madeira’s worst disaster in living memory.

Crews in Funchal pumped water out of a mall’s underground lot, where they feared they might find more bodies. The lot’s two levels were submerged in the freak deluge.


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