Investigations launched after Borba quarry “tragedy” leaves two dead and three missing

in World · 22-11-2018 09:41:00 · 0 Comments

Two men have been confirmed dead and three people were, at the time of going to press, still missing, after a landslide destroyed a road running alongside a quarry in the Alentejo city of Borba, sweeping three vehicles into a 50-metre-deep pit.

A 100-metre stretch of road collapsed into the quarry following a landslide on Monday afternoon, at approximately 3.45pm. The road, known as the former EN255, linked Borba to the nearby Alentejo town of Vila Viçosa.
The first body of one of the two confirmed fatalities was retrieved on Tuesday afternoon. Two of the three people still missing – all men – are believed to be brothers-in-law who were on their way to see their accountant.
Prosecutors confirmed on Wednesday that they are investigating the incident and possible claims of negligence.
Media reports on Wednesday morning revealed that state officials have received at least five warnings in recent years, warning of the road’s imminent collapse, which left many querying why the road had not been closed.
The road is believed to have been the responsibility of Borba Council since 2005, when it was downgraded from a national road (EN) and no longer fell under the management of national road company Estradas de Portugal.
Newspaper Diário de Notícias reports that in 2014, the Directorate-General for Energy and Geology proposed the construction of two roads in lieu of the former EN255, but no agreement was reached.

Speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday night, the mayor of Borba said he hoped that the “tragedy” caused by the landslide “could prevent other tragedies” and “allow a rethink” of all of the country’s roads.
António Anselmo was questioned by journalists with regard to the purported meeting with technicians of the regional geology services in 2014. He was asked if the warnimgs and the possibility of closing the road were discussed; if he in fact attended, and if Borba Council was aware of any risks.
The mayor of Borba confirmed that “there was a meeting four or five years ago” and guaranteed that “what was said at the meeting will be made public when the time is right, with the minutes and all that was said”.
The mayor added that there have been quarries on both sides of the road “for a long time” and the road has “always been the same size”, therefore he does not believe that “licensed quarries would have endangered the road”.
Regarding the road itself, “the information we had is that it was safe”, Mayor Anselmo stressed, saying he is “of clear conscience” in the deaths of the two workers.
The Public Prosecutor has meanwhile launched an investigation to ascertain the circumstances of the accident, as it is compelled to when there are fatalities.
The government has also ordered an inspection into the operation of quarries located in the Borba area.
In a statement, the Ministry of the Environment and Energy Transition instructs that “within 45 days, the General Inspectorate of Agriculture, the Sea, Environment and Spatial Planning (IGAMAOT) carry out an inspection of the licensing, exploration, inspection and suspension of operation of the quarries located in the area where the accident occurred on 19 November”.
The Civil Protection Agency said rescue work to locate those missing could take “days or weeks”.
A 400-metre-long hosepipe has been installed in an attempt to drain one of the quarry’s water-filled pits.


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