“Almost €400 million” to be released for Portugal’s fire damage reconstruction

Today’s extraordinary and still ongoing Council of Ministers has already approved a raft of measures to redress the appalling damage caused by last weekend’s killer fires. All in all, “almost €400 million” will be going towards rebuilding devastated homes and communities and resurrecting crippled businesses.

The money will be distributed between three ministries – Infrastructures, Agriculture and Labour and Social Security – and is designed to keep jobs alive as much as give support to the many hundreds of affected families.

In a press conference announcing the measures, infrastructure minister Pedro Marques said a full picture of the damages that resulted for last Sunday’s raging inferno though 44 municipalities across 10 districts is still underway.

“Priority will be given to the activation of insurance policies that covered homes and businesses”, he said, while “in the remaining cases, the State will take action and rebuild primary residences”.

In the case of the 300-plus businesses affected, the government has developed “various instruments”, explains ECO online.

An endowment of €100 million will be going to rebuild companies, with a credit line of another €100 million for “necessary investments”.

There will also be a “system of support and incentives for new private investment” in ravaged areas, with €50 million coming from Community Funds, matched by the same amount from Portugal.

Marques made a point of stressing that today’s meeting has also created a structure of health and psychological support for “affected populations”.

This was a prerequisite coming from President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa’s very determined walkabout through devastated communities (click here).

Works and Social Security minister Vieira da Silva outlined the money he will have available, saying it involves “three fundamental dimensions” and one measure that is “totally new” – the government’s support for the next three months of salaries in damaged businesses.

It is “an exceptional measure” justified by the fact that this is an exceptional situation – and it is expected to cost the State “around €13 million”, said ECO.

“Beyond this measure, social supports to affected families will be reinforced”, adds the website, while social institutions involved will also see their budgets boosted accordingly.

Other plans are to suspend the need for affected companies to pay social security contributions, or at very least, reduce the amounts payable.

In Agriculture, minister Capoulas Santos said animal feed will start becoming available, to be distributed by the Armed Forces. As he mentioned yesterday, there are at least 100,000 cattle and half a million sheep in dire need of food.

A further €15 million has been approved to “stabilise the situation of emergency” in forestry areas. This involves “addressing the most serious problems of soil erosion and water contamination”.

The ministry will also have access to €8 million in lines of credit: one (€3 million) to help people sell their wood (“provided that minimum prices are respected) and the second (€5 million) to create conditions for the installation of reception parks for this wood).

All in all, the Agriculture Ministry can expect €35 million.

Finally, Justice Ministry Francesca Van Dunem announced the creation of another “extraordinary measure” – an extrajudicial mechanism to indemnify families of the dead, both in the fires of last weekend, and those of the tragedy in June at Pedrógão Grande.

Reports of the extraordinary meeting have not yet got to the stage where the long-promised “fundamental reform” of Portugal’s ‘systems of prevention and combat of fires’ has been outlined.

This will come towards the end of the day, but is expected to involve “a revision of the Civil Protection model” involving “reinforced presence of the Armed Forces” when it comes to combat and the kind of systemic reform that will “concentrate on the defence of people and their communities”.

Said Expresso this morning, the Agriculture Ministry, “especially through the ICNF (Institute for forestry and nature conservation)” is expected to start taking “more action in the structural prevention” of forest fires, as well as in support of their combat.

Meantime, meteorological authority IPMA has warned that the risk of fires is once again very high, and will remain so as temperatures increase for the rest of next week.

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