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Update: 29 German tourists killed in Madeira bus crash

Twenty-nine German tourists have been killed after a bus crashed on the Portuguese island Madeira.

Update: 29 German tourists killed in Madeira bus crash
Emergency services at the scene of the crash. Photo: DPA

Televised images showed the bus had spun off the road, apparently having flipped several times, before crashing into a house at the bottom of a slope. The crash happened Wednesday around 6.30pm.

“Horrible news comes to us from Madeira,” a German government spokesman tweeted after the deadly crash.

“Our deep sorrow goes to all those who lost their lives in the bus accident, our thoughts are with the injured,” he added.

A hotline number has been set up for concerned relatives to call. It is 030-5000-3000.

Filipe Sousa, mayor of Santa Cruz where the accident happened, said 17 women and 11 men were killed in the crash, with another 21 injured.

A doctor told reporters another woman died of her injuries in hospital.

“I express the sorrow and solidarity of all the Portuguese people in this tragic moment, and especially for the families of the victims who I have been told were all German,” President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told Portuguese television.

Following the crash he said he would travel to Madeira overnight.

A woman being helped by rescue workers at the crash scene. Photo: DPA

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa added on Twitter that he had contacted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to convey his condolences.

“It is with profound sadness that I heard of the accident on Madeira,” he wrote on the government's Twitter page.

“I took the occasion to convey my sadness to Chancellor Angela Merkel at this difficult time,” he added.

The regional protection service in Madeira confirmed 28 deaths in the accident that happened on Wednesday evening, while hospital authorities said another woman later died of her injuries.

The bus had been carrying around 50 passengers.

Regional government Vice President Pedro Calado said it was “premature” to speculate on the cause of the crash, adding that the vehicle was five years old and that “everything had apparently been going well”.

Judicial authorities had opened an investigation into the circumstances of the accident, the Madeira public prosecutor's office told the Lusa news agency.

Medical teams were being sent from Lisbon to help local staff carry out post-mortems on the dead.

Often called the Pearl of the Atlantic, Madeira is located about 950 kilometers southwest of Lisbon in the Atlantic Ocean.

It hosts thousands of tourists each year, attracted to its subtropical climate and rugged volcanic terrain. It is an especially popular destination for German and British holidaymakers.

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TRAVEL

Christmas: Is it possible to travel within Germany under new rules?

Is travelling to another federal state allowed during the Christmas holidays?

Christmas: Is it possible to travel within Germany under new rules?
A quiet road in Frankfurt. Photo: DPA

Germany is to toughen coronavirus measures from Wednesday December 16th until January 10th. Under the new rules, non-essential shops and schools will close, people can't drink alcohol in public and the sale of fireworks is banned.

From December 24th to 26th, the contact restrictions will be eased slightly. So can you travel to visit people during this time?

Is travel banned?

First of all, travel is not banned. However, the government and states have urged people against travelling unless it is absolutely necessary.

“The federal Government and the Länder (states) urge all citizens to refrain from non-essential travel in Germany and abroad between now and January 10th,” says the agreement.

Non-essential travel includes tourist travel.

The government and states also emphasise that entry into Germany from foreign risk areas means a compulsory 10-day quarantine period. The quarantine can only be ended by a negative test taken at the earliest on the fifth day after entry.

Tests are no longer free in Germany after non-essential travel.

So if you decide to travel somewhere abroad that's a risk zone, keep in mind you'll have to quarantine when you get back.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about travel within Germany (and abroad) at Christmas

What happens if you decide to travel within Germany?

Despite the call to avoid travel, if you decide to go to another German state over the holidays, you must familiarise yourself with the coronavirus regulations of that particular region.

 For those travelling to another federal state, there's also the question of accommodation.

At the moment hotels are only allowed to serve guests who are travelling for essential reasons such as business. Tourist stays are not allowed.

However, some states, including Berlin, Bremen and Hesse said they were to allow relatives visiting family at Christmas to stay in hotels or other overnight accommodation.

At the moment this still seems to be the case in Berlin, Bremen, Lower Saxony,  and Thuringia. Other states are still deciding on this.

Some states, including Bavaria, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg have said they will not allow this.

Berlin mayor Michael Müller, however, emphasised that people must consider not travelling.

“If it is a trip that is not of a tourist nature, then there is also a possibility to stay overnight in the hotels,” he said after a Senate meeting.

“But the starting point is different. Staying at home is the urgent appeal, not travelling around.”

In Müller's view, necessary visits to relatives are different to tourist trips, because the former do not involve sightseeing or shopping.

The situation is subject to change so you must check your local state rules in the coming days, as well as the hotel or overnight accommodation you're thinking about. It would not be a great start to the holiday season if you travel somewhere only to be turned away at the door.

The opening of hotels to relatives is a contentious issue in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel last week slammed the idea of states opening for relatives, saying it was the wrong move and created “incentives” for travel.

READ ALSO: 'A trip home is impossible': How foreign residents in Germany plan to celebrate Christmas

How can you get around?

Travel by car is probably the safest option since you won't come into contact with other members of the public.

If you don't want to travel across Germany by car, there are alternatives: Deutsche Bahn, for example, is making extra trains available. 

A new reservation system also aims to ensure more free seats on trains – and distance between passengers.

The coach company Flixbus is also offering journeys again from December 17th.

Travelling by plane is also still an option although hygiene and distance rules apply at German airports and within planes.

For more information read our story on travel in Germany and abroad during the festive season here. Please also keep up to date with your local coronavirus rules.

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