A LARGE simulated disaster, designed to test the responses of Lisbon’s emergency services, was staged last Saturday at Bela Vista Park. ‘Operation Centaur’ was witnessed by Lisbon Câmara President, Dr. Carmona Rodrigues, Câmara Officer, José Moreira Marques, and hundreds of other citizens. The aim of the operation, spearheaded by the city’s Civil Protection League, was also to acquaint local people with security and prevention issues. It showed the means and resources available to the police, fire services and other emergency services in the event of a disaster, be it natural or man-made. Above all, it showcased how the various emergency services within Lisbon are trained to work together in the event of a catastrophe. On a technical level, the simulations, which were beamed on large screens to the watching populace, were evaluated according to the câmara’s emergency action and response plans (Planos Prévios de Intervenção). The main concerns in the simulated crashes, explosions and fires are the initial evaluation of the disasters, the best way of tackling them
and, above all, the focus of swiftly saving lives. It also highlighted the importance of securing the disaster area and keeping out those not directly linked to the operation at a safe distance, including the press, but regularly informing them of the situation via official bulletins. Also on hand were psychologists and counsellors to take care of the victims’ families and those suffering from shock.
The last stage showed the necessity to clean up the site and get all normal transport and public services up and running, with the minimum of disruption and fuss, as soon as possible.
The simulated scenario was a situation resulting in the pile up of various vehicles, following a car which swerved off course into an oncoming articulated tanker lorry carrying highly inflammable petrol, another car and a coach carrying 44 passengers. As a result of the crash, the tanker ruptured spilling petrol on the road, which rapidly exploded and ignited feet away from the coach, while two motorists were trapped inside their vehicles. Two coach passengers were trapped, two were wounded, while the rest managed to escape with cuts and bruises.
On hand to tackle the disaster were the fire services, the Civil Protection League, the police, the Red Cross, the Regional Health Administration and an army unit. The rescue and clean up operation went without a glitch, although faced with a real situation, one wonders how things would work out. Chris Graeme