With news of how the country means to recover the devastation of last summer’s forest fires updating by the day, one of the latest highlights is a donation of €100,000 for reforestation efforts from the Aga Khan’s Ismaili community, based in Lisbon.
The offer was announced yesterday (Thursday), with the money going towards reforesting Leiria’s ‘mata nacional’ – one of the areas worst hit by the fires that are now thought to have killed as many as 50 people in October (see below).
The initiative is going ahead in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and ICNF, with tree planting due to take place between January and March next year, said a note issued by the foundation.
This is the second time that Imamat Ismaili community based in Lisbon has stepped in to help post-fire recovery.
In June it handed over €500,000 to “support the victims of Pedrógão Grande”.
Meantime, the government is busy announcing new initiatives. Just in the last few days, the ministry of planning has launched a raft of measures allocating €100,000 to attract new businesses to the areas devastated in October.
These funds join measures announced at the start of the month, explains Dinheiro Vivo – both involving the same amount: €100,000.
Says the paper, “according to government data there are 438 businesses affected by the fires of October 15, 42 in the north and 388 in the centre. Total damages of these companies which employ around 5000 people have been estimated at €264 million”.
And this remains ‘the issue’: hundreds of businesses remain in states of limbo with many only eligible for percentages of what they have lost.
In the centre, particularly, there is indignation that compensation is being calculated in a lesser way than compensation for businesses affected by the fires four months previously.
Mobilising discontent, cheese producer Luís Lagos of Oliveira do Hospital has told the Resident that the association of victims of the largest fire ever in Portugal (AVMISP) will be meeting in Tondela and Seia next week, to gather force.
“Our movement cannot stop”, he told us. “We refuse to accept being treated like second and third class citizens”.
AVMISP has tried to get an audience with President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, but as yet has “heard nothing”, said Lagos – despite the fact that media reports suggest he will be spending New Year in central areas, specifically to show support to the hundreds of victims.
Academic though it may appear, the death tolls for last summer’s fires continue to rise. The 45 originally given by the government for the fires in October has been increased by Jornal de Notícias by five – two of whom have never been found – while the official number of 64 deaths in Pedrógão Grande in June has been increased to 65.
Yesterday (Thursday), the Council of Ministers approved the opening of an extrajudicial mechanism to start compensating the more than 350 people who received injuries in the fires, plus the relatives of the “at least 115” (according to Correio da Manhã) who lost their lives.
The government also approved a resolution that releases “exceptional finance” in the form of €2.5 million to the Revita fund, created to support fire victims by “guaranteeing the reconstruction of all the homes affected by the fires”.