Edition 1445
14 October 2017
Edition: 1445

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Fires ravage Portugal

by Brendan de Beer, in News · 11-08-2016 14:37:00 · 3 Comments

Thousands of fire-fighters were still battling blazes across the country on Thursday as
hundreds of fires had yet to be brought under control. The past week’s fires have resulted in close to 30,000 hectares of land being reduced to ashes. Up until the end of July, fire damage for 2016 had only totalled 8,000 hectares, but that has now more than tripled in the first nine days of August, which have seen more fire damage than the whole of 2014.

Fires ravage Portugal

At least five people have died in fires the past few days, with another person missing still missing following the chaotic fires in Funchal.
Madeira was the focus of international headlines, with tens of thousands of tourists currently on the island.
Madeira nightmare on Twitter
Several visitors from the UK relayed their ordeals on the island via Twitter.
One such tourist, Jackie Galbraith tweeted on Wednesday: “Finally back in Glasgow after spending 32 hours in Funchal Airport. Madeira was beautiful but I won’t be back – wouldn’t take the chance.”
Another tweet revealed: “Total chaos at Madeira Airport. Nearly all flights cancelled. Staff overwhelmed, passengers tired and grumpy, bins and toilets overflowing.”
The five-star Choupana Hills resort on the island was destroyed in the Funchal fires, with one guest, Jan Palka revealing: “We fled the flames, hope you are well.”
Sophie Sulehria, a BBC journalist, also tweeted they were forced to abandon their taxi and luggage to find safety at a local guesthouse from where she reported for BBC World on the dramatic situation in the island.
British Embassy send staff to Madeira
The British Embassy in Lisbon has sent two members of its consular staff to Madeira “to assist anyone who may be affected.”
In a statement the Embassy said “we are in contact with the Portuguese authorities following the outbreak of forest fires in Madeira. We are ready to provide assistance to any British nationals who may be affected.
“We are not aware of any British nationals who are injured. Some had to be temporarily relocated (properties and hotels were evacuated) but we understand they are now back”, the Embassy added.
Fire-fighters earning €1.87 an hour
Fire-fighters have been at the epicentre of the battle against the hundreds of blazes reported this week.
The chairman of the National Association of Fire-fighters (ANBP) was critical of the current situation, and told Diário de Notícias the same problems persist – “the failure to focus on prevention.”
Fernando Curto, explained that “we have fires last 35 hours, more than five thousand feet on the ground on mainland Portugal alone, which is an army, and fire-fighters working 24 consecutive hours while earning €1.87 an hour.”
The ANBP chief also criticised the fact that Portugal has grown accustomed to the voluntary fire-fighter.
Petition calls for maximum term for arsonists
While the weather conditions have been given the larger share of the blame for fuelling the fires, dozens of arsonists have been detained this week for starting them.
One single man is believed to be responsible for starting the massive fire that has devastated the island of Madeira. A 24-year-old named by the media as Paulo Gonçalves is understood to have confessed to staring the fire with a lighter, in an area of scrubland in São Roque, after spending the morning drinking and smoking hashish. He is also suspected of having started another fire in 2011 near the Marítimo football stadium.
PJ police have so far arrested 26 people throughout Portugal on suspicion of starting recent fires. A petition has meanwhile been launched asking that the maximum sentence for arsonists be raised to 25 years in jail. At the time of going to press it had been signed by more than 25,000 people.
Cristiano pledges Madeira aid
Portugal’s star footballer Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly pledged to help his homeland recover from the devastation by offering financial aid. In a post on his Facebook page Madeira’s most famous son said it was with a “heavy heart” that he had watched the events on the island unfold, and encouraged its inhabitants to be strong.
Praising Madeira’s fire-fighters for their bravery in “risking their lives to save so many others”, in a show of solidarity he said “I am with you”.
SIC Notícias reports the international sports star has spoken to the head of Madeira’s Regional Government, Miguel Albuquerque, by phone.
Better land management
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has called on authorities to start “thinking seriously” about how the way that land is managed in the country can be reformed to avoid further devastating forest fires.
Aid from ex-colony
East Timor’s cabinet this week approved the donation of a total of €2 million to help its former colonial rulers fight the fires that are sweeping the country’s forests and scrubland, and to aid the victims. According to Lusa News Agency, the government said that €1.25 million was earmarked “to support the Portuguese authorities in the fight against the fires” and €750,000 “is for direct aid to the affected populations”.
Aid appeals
A wave of appeals has been launched by benevolent local populations wanting to show their support and gratitude for the beleaguered fire-fighters working round the clock to bring the infernal chaos under control. From north to south of the country citizens have organised collections for the likes of water and cereal bars to keep the shattered fire-fighters going, as well as financial donations. Readers wishing to help should visit their local fire stations to enquire about their specific needs.

Comments

My Heart goes out to all the madeiran people , what a same this as happened to a beautiful island, lovely people , that's why I married a lovely women from madeira , I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS AS HAPPENED , I pray for every one on the island is OK and recover as quickly as possible.
by MR ANTHONY BARKER from UK on 13-08-2016 12:20:00
why do fire fighters get less per hour than Portuguese prisoners ?.....(bet you don't publish this fact as well !!)
by Mac Ka from Other on 13-08-2016 09:14:00
I do live in Lagoa de Albufeira south of Lisbon. Beautiful not long ago adjacent forest is converted by wealthy owners of luxurious houses ( most built illegally ) into a garbage dump. Construction debris, domestic trash, used toilet paper - all is everywhere. The forest is ready for massive fire. Lately people are setting picnic deep inside the forest.
Near the market the area looks like massive open air toilet: paper is everywhere. Portuguese seems like to shit in open.
Huge piles of branches, leaves are blocking the roads.
Total mismanagement! Discipline exceptional! At 13 the locals at the tables gorging on gargantuan meals with wine, while firefighters are being paid 1.87 euro per hour. After massive lunch it is quiet here: nap takes over! Nobody gives a s..t! Who cares! But they will be fast to ask hardworking Germans to send money. I and my daughter donated large sums of $$$$. We never found where they end up.
by Arkady Mirvis from Lisbon on 12-08-2016 03:01:00

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Edition 1445
14 October 2017
Edition: 1445

Read this week's issue online exactly as it appears in print.

Twitter