With rain forecast for much of this week, for these families time is becoming of the essence.
Local voluntary association Ajuda Monchique has flagged at least six serious situations of families living in close proximity to asbestos, in Carolo, Alferce, Foia and Pardieiros, found in the debris left behind by the huge week-long wildfire that ripped through the counties of Monchique, Silves and Portimão two months ago.
Shanti Fernandes, a spokesperson for Ajuda Monchique, said “people are desperate, some do not have a notion of the danger it poses to their health”.
She justified her reasoning with the shocking example of a man who just last week “without realising the risk, made a fire with asbestos”.
Another case is that of a man with restricted movement who had to drag himself across the ground, over the hazardous substance.
The voluntary platform that assists fire victims on a daily basis has listed “44 cases of housing with debris, including asbestos, which have been reported to the local council”.
But, they lament, until now their warnings have gone unanswered.
“This week we found three more families with asbestos close to their homes”, says Shanti Fernandes.
One of the affected residents, who spoke to newspaper Correio da Manhã (CM), is 33-year-old Francisco Carmo, who lives in an area where asbestos is scattered over 300 square metres.
There are six families, among them at least five children, who live in that area.
“We have talked to the council but they do not have the financial resources, they asked us to wait. I’m asking for urgent help to remove this toxic material as the rain could aggravate the scenario because it will contaminate the water”, says Francisco.
CM said, it tried to contact the local authority but without success.
Meanwhile, green party Os Verdes have warned there are many wild animals in the afore-mentioned regions that are hungry and thirsty as a result of the scorched and parched countryside caused by the August wildfires.
The party has demanded to know what measures the government is taking to minimise the consequences.
The Greens submitted the question in parliament after reports that animals like foxes, deer and lynx are seeking food and water from residential properties in the affected areas.
There have even been reports recently of a family in Monchique who hand-feed a fox, which visits them regularly while looking for food.
Os Verdes have asked the Environment Ministry what is being done about the situation.
“Given the amount of land burned in the aftermath of this fire, this scenario was expected and more than predictable, but according to the inhabitants, nothing was done to protect these animals after the destruction of their natural ecosystem”, said Os Verdes MP José Luis Ferreira, who delivered the question to the Government in Parliament.
“It is important to know what measures have been taken or are being considered by the Government in order to minimise the effects of this serious fire”, Mr. Luís Ferreira said in the document, asking the Ministry if it is aware of this situation and whether a plan has been drawn up through the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests or any other entity for the maintenance and restoration of ecosystems in the Monchique mountain range affected by the fires. He queried when steps would be taken to “solve this serious problem”.
Some biologists, such as Fábia Azevedo, coordinator of the RIAS - Olhão Wildlife Recovery Centre, argue that wildlife should not be fed by people.
“They are animals used to living in the wild, which can find food alone, although when food availability is short they can travel miles to find it”.