Rain due to continue into next week
The Algarve was blighted by serious floods due to heavy rain between Sunday and Monday. Faro suffered the worst consequences, with business owners reporting hundreds of thousands of euros of damages and considering legal action against the local council.
One of the worst affected areas in the Algarvian capital was Rua de São Luís, where businesses are at their wit’s end with the losses they face every year when it rains.
“Every year we are faced with losses of hundreds of thousands of euros, but this year the damages are beyond what is considered normal,” business owner Nuno Amado told Barlavento newspaper.
The street is particularly affected as “the rainwater from three or four other streets ends up on Rua de São Luís, which does not have the capacity to drain all the water in time before the street begins to flood.
“It is a problem that has been happening for over 25 years and which all mayors know about. Everyone knows what happens here and I cannot understand why there is no solution,” the business owner said.
“We do not understand why the council does not resolve this. Business owners are tired of this. As I often say, we are the ‘chamber pot’ of the town.”
The drainage system was revamped around a decade ago, but “it wasn’t done properly” according to Amado.
“The water is being challenged into the sea. If the tide had been high on a day like today, this would have been much worse,” he warned.
Davide Alpestana, president of the Downtown Faro Traders’ Association, told Lusa news agency that “most shops were affected by the water coming in – with three or four more serious cases being recorded”.
“There are specific situations where the damage was greater – we’re talking about three or four cases. Currently, around 70% of establishments have been able to open,” he said.
A dental clinic was one of the worst affected businesses, with its owner estimating that the losses may reach €800,000.
“We are now gathering all business owners in the area and are considering legal action against the local council in order to see this problem solved,” Blue Dental owner Alexandre Luz told RTP.
Elsewhere in Faro, another consequence of the downpour was the collapse of a house in ruins in the town’s historic centre. For years local residents had warned about the bad state of the house, tabloid Correio da Manhã reported.
Parts of the house collapsed onto a car that was parked nearby, completing destroying it.
Classrooms at the Penha Campus of University of Algarve also became flooded, forcing classes to be cancelled, while several cars became submerged due to the heavy rain.
Faro was the municipality where most occurrences were reported between Sunday and Monday (92), significantly more than any other in the Algarve, according to a statement by the National Authority of Emergency and Civil Protection (ANEPC).
Tavira (17), Loulé (14), Albufeira (13), Vila Real de Santo António (11), Olhão and São Brás de Alportel (10 each), Alcoutim (8), Castro Marim (4), Lagoa and Silves (2 each), and Lagos and Portimão (1 each) also registered weather-related occurrences, the statement adds.
These occurrences led to the deployment of 410 civil protection members, mostly firefighters.
Most of the situations involved the flooding of public streets, ground floors and garages (130), although authorities also had to deal with 18 tree falls, nine landslides, six collapsed structures, 17 clogged sewer drains and seven incidents involving the removal of vehicles from flooded areas.
One bit of good news is that no one was reported injured.
“There isn’t much we can do,” says Faro mayor
Despite lamenting the damage caused by Monday’s floods, Faro mayor Rogério Bacalhau has shrugged off any blame for what happened and said that there is not much that the council can do to avoid these situations.
The mayor defends that the floods were caused by the “intense rain that fell in such a short period of time”, and not by an “inadequate drainage system” as local citizens suggest.
“When the intensity of rain is this strong, it is impossible to come up with solutions because no matter what the drainage system is, it will be unable to drain this intensity of water,” he told Lusa news agency.
Describing the situation as “unusual”, Bacalhau said not much can be done apart from “minimising damages”.
“I understand people’s desperation and concerns, but there isn’t much the council could have done. As soon as the rain stopped, the water drained immediately, which shows the system is working well,” he said.
“Even if we had a different system, we would probably have floods anyway due to the intensity of the rain in a short period of time.”
The mayor also assured that the floods were not caused by a lack of maintenance as municipal services had been cleaning drains and gutters in the areas seen as “most problematic” on Sunday.
Águas do Algarve hopes rain will help restore dam levels
Regional water company Águas do Algarve says the recent rainfall is just what the region needs to help restore dam levels.
“We are waiting to see what the coming days will bring. Obviously, we and everyone in the Algarve hope the rain will continue,” Teresa Fernandes, spokesperson for Águas do Algarve, told the Resident.
“As we all know, our dam levels are way below what we hope for. What we need is for the rain to continue so that we can restore acceptable water reserves.”
The latest data revealed by Águas do Algarve on November 4 showed that water levels at the three dams under its management ranged from 14% to 17%, which, as Teresa Fernandes highlighted, is “far from ideal”.
However, the real impact of the recent rain and that forecast for the following days will only be known later, she explained.
Photos: BRUNO FILIPE PIRES/OPEN MEDIA GROUP