No pomp or circumstance for the memorial to 114 fatalities in the deadly wildfires of 2017. Image: IP
No pomp or circumstance for the memorial to 114 fatalities in the deadly wildfires of 2017. Image: IP

Association of Victims of Pedrógão Grande hears there WILL be a ceremony to honour dead

Ten days late, “not an inauguration of memorial” – but a ceremony at least

Days after the ‘disbelief’ registered by the association of victims of Pedrógão Grande that no-one in government had bothered to mark the six-year anniversary, even less mark the opening of a stunning memorial, authorities have rung the changes.

A ceremony to honour the 115 fatalities of the 2017 wildfires (as well as the hundreds who were injured) will be held in a week’s time (June 27) next to the memorial, president of the intermunicipal community of Leiria, Gonçalo Lopes, has announced

“It is not exactly an inauguration because the memorial is already open”, he admitted. “It will be a ceremony to visit the space and where tribute will be paid to the victims of the 2017 fires”.

Lopes said the initiative will be attended by ‘government officials, such as prime minister António Costa, minister for territorial cohesion Ana Abrunhosa, mayors of the affected regions, the association of victims of the Pedrógão Grande fire, and other entities linked to the social and associative area of these municipalities, as well as the local population. Special guest too will be the memorial’s creator, architect Souto Moura.

There have been no reactions to this development from the association of victims, whose president Dina Duarte has not held back in her criticism of the nation’s political leaders – and very possibly rightly so. Had she not spoken out, one wonders if next week’s ceremony would be going ahead at all.

The Memorial to the Victims of the 2017 wildfires, is located next to infamous 236-1 national road on which so many people died on June 17 of that year.

The €1.8 million memorial includes a lake with an area of about 2,500 square meters, fed by a 60-metre-long channel, and bordered by a strip of plants consisting of white lilies, and buttercups.

According to Infraestruturas de Portugal, which paid for the work, “the memorial also includes, as a fundamental piece, a wall with the inscription of the name of each of the 115 people who lost their lives in the forest fires of June and October 2017.”

Gonçalo Lopes has said CIMRL is “finalising a protocol with Infraestruturas de Portugal”, according to which it (CIMRL)  will be “responsible for the maintenance of the monument”.

The fires that broke out on June 17, 2017 in Pedrógão Grande spread to neighbouring municipalities. Sixty six people died, 253 were injured, seven of which seriously. The fires destroyed around 500 homes and 50 businesses.

In October of the same year, other fires in the Central region caused 49 deaths and around 70 injuries, with the total or partial destruction of around 1,500 homes and more than 500 businesses.

[email protected]