Schools and courts in the region appear to be the target of a spate of telephone hoaxes in which the caller claims that he has planted a live bomb in the building.
Alice Van den Eine from the British School near Lagoa recently received a bomb threat from a Spanish male claiming to be a member of the Palestinian Liberation Front. The Resident reporter, George Fletcher, spoke to Alice about the terrorist threat. “We had been back at school for a couple of days,” she told us, “when I received a threatening phone call.” Alice described how a man speaking in Spanish and Portuguese told her that there was a bomb in the school and that it would be activated the following day. “To be honest”, she continued, “I suspected it was a hoax. What could the Palestinian Liberation Front possibly have against a small school in a quiet area of the Algarve?”
But, because of the severity of the threat, Alice felt it was her duty to report it to the police, finally speaking to the Police Commander in Portimão. “He didn’t believe the threat could be serious either”, she explained, “but, he shared my view that it could not be ignored”.
Alice requested that the police search her school for explosives, imagining that it would be a fairly simple procedure, but, despite the potential gravity of the situation, more complications were to follow. Before the police officers would check the school, Alice was asked to provide them with her Ministry of Education licence details. Once the school’s legal status was confirmed, the officers carried out their search. After thoroughly checking the school twice, they found nothing and declared the building safe. Relieved, Alice explained: “The disruption was thankfully only minor and everything went back to normal immediately. Now we are happily looking forward to the year ahead.”
Neither the Lagoa nor Silves GNR press offices were willing to comment on the bomb threat, or their standard procedure for dealing with such incidents. However, they were able to confirm that there has been a spate of similar scares across the Algarve recently. A state school in Faro recently received a similar threat and, during the Christmas period, a hoaxer targeted the court buildings in Portimão.
A stupid prank: Hundreds of children were forced to evacuate their classes at the EB 2,3 Estói school in Faro after the headmaster received a call from an anonymous man, who warned: “I’m going to blow the school up very soon.” Headmaster, Dulce Diogo, immediately ordered an emergency evacuation and notified the Faro GNR. After a three hour search, the GNR found no trace of any explosives in the establishment. “Nothing of the sort has ever happened before. This is a stupid prank, and there is no reason for anyone to do this. This school has very young children studying here, who were left in a state of shock because of this hoax call,” Diogo said.
Latest bomb scare: In the latest incident, Loulé court workers were evacuated from their building after another bomb threat. According to one eyewitness, John Robertson, after the call was received, workers were immediately evacuated and ordered to stay in a safe area, around 50 metres from the building while GNR officers searched the court and dog handlers prevented anyone from entering. Workers were forced to wait one hour before they were able to continue with their work. A receptionist in the building, who wished to remain anonymous, revealed to The Resident that a foreigner had made the phone call. “I was told that he had a strange accent and that police thought he was a foreigner,” she said. She also revealed that the Loulé GNR station had allegedly received a phone call from the hoax bomber the day before the scare. Meanwhile, Sr Rocha, the General Secretary of the court, refused to comment on the bomb scare, saying only: “Yes, we had a bomb threat and, no, we didn’t blow up.”