Controversy over the safety of the bridge leading to Faro Island continues to rage. The opposition Socialist Party has accused José Vitorino, the President of Faro Câmara, of “lying” when he denied being forewarned about the condition of the bridge.
Vitorino has blamed the previous Socialist executive for not implementing safety measures. But the President of the Partido Socialista (PS) opposition, Falcão Marques, has guaranteed that Vitorino was informed of all the measures adopted to ensure the stability of the bridge and the safety of those driving on it at the beginning of 2001. “When he says that he only found out about the process a few days ago, he is lying and trying to manipulate public opinion,” alleges Marques.
Meanwhile, Vitorino has given an assurance that câmara technicians had only presented him with a report about the bridge days ago and that he has, therefore, been unable to act on the contents of the report until now. Among the recommendations is a specification that there must be at least 30 metres distance between crossing vehicles. The report also stipulates a ban on vehicles weighing over 3.5 tonnes. The Socialist Party has denied Vitorino’s version of events. “He (Vitorino) maintains that the LNEC report was buried in the catacombs of the câmara. That way he can absolve himself from responsibility for whatever accident might occur. But he was actually informed of the whole process by architect José Pacheco,” a spokesman explained.
The PS claims that a technical report was issued in February 2001, which concluded that the bridge was in a state of disrepair. The spokesman also claims that the party gave the go-ahead to a team of divers to assess the condition of the bridge and support pillars. The executive maintains it then carried out works to improve the bridge and decided to impose the aforementioned weight and distance limits. In May of the same year, the câmara went to inspect the state of the bridge’s pillars and concluded that some of them were not satisfactory, but that the structure did not pose any imminent danger.
The spokesman went on to claim that the Socialists launched a competition for tenders for the restoration and maintenance of the bridge in June 2001, a contract that was eventually awarded to the firm Coba. “It is strange that Dr Vitorino, who took power in January 2002, does not remember the awarding of the contract to the Coba firm,” said Marques. He added that vehicles well above the prescribed weight continue to travel across the bridge.
In his most recent comment on the subject, Vitorino again denied any previous knowledge of the state of the bridge. A statement from Faro Câmara’s Office of Public Relations said: “Contrary to what the PS states, the current executive never had any prior knowledge of the process”. Vitorino also denied ever seeing any report or photographs pertaining to teams of divers being despatched to examine the structure of the bridge. “If a situation as serious as this had been conveyed to me, it would have been dealt with,” he said.