Rescue work initially focused on the capital, Funchal, but as roads on the mountainous island were gradually reopened, it became clear the floods had also struck villages in the interior.

Flood damage

Emma Hayward, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Madeira said the operation has moved from rescue to recovery, with diggers working to repair damaged areas.

"We're here in the Marina, this was once the show piece of Funchal ... but [diggers] have been working flat out for the last few days to try and get it repaired," she said.

Water distribution tanks did the rounds on the heights of Funchal, where many houses were carried away by the mudslide and the water supply was cut.

Authorities worked to restore power and water to several towns in the south and centre of the island, with the resort of Ribeira Brava 20km from Funchal cut off after floods destroyed a section of the main road.

A Portuguese warship carrying helicopters and loaded with relief supplies was anchored off Madeira and fresh reinforcements were flown in from Lisbon on a military aircraft late on Monday.

Financial aid

The Portuguese government has promised to send financial aid to Madeira quickly.

"At the national level and at the EU level, we will put into action all necessary help," Rui Pereira, Portugal's interior minister, said after a special cabinet meeting on Monday, which declared three days of mourning after the disaster.

He said Fernando Teixeira dos Santos, Portugal's finance minister, would travel to Madeira on Tuesday to talk to regional authorities. 

The country's government has also said it is considering asking the European Union for help with the crisis.

The rains were the worst to hit the island since October 1983, when eight people died.

Madeira is the main island of an archipelago of the same name off the northwest coast of Africa.