Câmaras call for state of calamity to be declared

Help us to help them

Local authorities from the Algarve and other regions in Portugal most affected by the fires have asked the government to declare a state of public calamity. But the Minister of Cities, Local Administration and Regional Development, José Luis Arnaut, has so far responded cautiously, only committing to make financial provisions available: “Only after evaluating the damage caused by the fires will we know which measures to adopt,” he responded. “The declaration of a public calamity does not depend on the goodwill of one or another ministry, but follows a critical and objective appraisal of the damage.”

Arnaut went on to say that he had already speeded up the process of getting financial and humanitarian aid to those hit hardest by the blazes. But he made clear that the funds could only be distributed after local authorities give him a complete evaluation of the damage.

Victims need

urgent help

The recently appointed President of the Algarve Grand Metropolitan Area, Macário Correia, is adamant, however, that the concelhos of Tavira, Alcoutim, Castro Marim, São Brás de Alportel, Loulé, Monchique and Silves should be given special treatment and should be considered as in a state of public disaster. “It is the only way of providing the appropriate support to businesses, families and, in particular, farmers and forestry producers,” he said.

The President of Monchique Câmara, Carlos Tuta, agrees, claiming that in his local authority there are families that have been left without anything and that “a declaration of public disaster is important so that people can start to repair the damage.” Local authorities have 12 days to hand over their evaluation of the damage incurred in their areas. Then the government, in tandem with the National Association of Portuguese Municipalities, will be able to make a decision.

In 2003 a state of calamity was declared throughout various districts: Faro, Setúbal, Leiria, Portalegre, Santarém, Coimbra, Castelo Branco, Guarda and Bragança. The move meant that there was financial support for those hardest hit by the fires and they were able to replace agricultural machinery and benefit from social subsidies.

Emergency appeals

This is the second year that Monchique has been hit by savage fires. The first estimates of the extent of damage in the Algarve and the Alentejoas a whole (including the concelhos of Monchique, Silves, Loulé, Tavira, São Brás de Alportel, Castro Marim, Alcoutim, Vila Real de Santo António, Almodôvar and Mértola) indicate that around 34,000 hectares have been burned. Some of the region’s câmaras have already launched emergency appeals. Loulé Câmara has opened a solidarity account called Caldeirão Vivo at the Caixa Geral de Depósitos, with the number 0399 070434 130 in order to support the victims of the recent fires in the concelho. There will be an Extraordinary General Meeting tonight (August 6) from 9.30pm at the câmarabuildings. Tavira Câmara has also opened a bank account (number 40186105043) at the local Caixa de Crédito Agrícola Mútuo to support fire victims.