By INÊS LOPES
Passengers arriving at Faro airport on Monday morning (October 24) were faced with chaos after freak winds overnight ripped off several sections of roof, injuring five people.
Thousands of passengers were stranded at the airport with planes unable to takeoff or land due to the adverse weather conditions and accumulated debris on the runway. Several flights coming to Faro had to be diverted to Seville.
Roof sections in the arrivals and departures halls as well as the air traffic control tower were severely damaged.
A spokesman from Faro Airport told the Algarve Resident: “Several metal structures supporting the airport’s roof have been destroyed and some are beyond repair.
“As a result of the damage, access to around 50% of the check-in area, 100% of the arrivals public area, the food court and the boarding area’s commercial zone is blocked for safety reasons.” Commandant Abel Gomes from the Faro District Command of Rescue Operations told Lusa news agency: “Parts of the roof at Faro airport were completely ripped off by the winds at around 5am, causing five injuries.”
A spokesman from Faro Hospital confirmed to the Algarve Resident that only one of the victims from the Faro airport incident had been admitted at the hospital. He said: “The victim is a 26 year old Brazilian resident and his condition is stable. None of the other victims were admitted at the hospital.”
At the end of the day on Monday, hundreds of passengers were still waiting at the airport for information about their flights with many spending the night at the airport while some others with flights rescheduled for the next day opted to pay for an extra night in a hotel.
A British passenger who wished not to be named told the Algarve Resident that it was easier to obtain information through the media than the airport staff.
Another passenger, from Ireland, complained about the lack of support from the airport staff.
She said: “I witnessed the roof collapse and was even hit by debris, but decided not to seek medical assistance as I was concerned I would miss my flight.
“However, my biggest worry is the lack of support and food for the stranded passengers, particularly babies. The airport staff has not said a word to us.”
Faro airport director Francisco Mendes Correia said on Monday morning: “The restaurant area is inoperable. There is nothing we can do at the moment. Our main concern now is to ensure the safety of passengers by blocking access to certain areas.”
ANA Aeroportos Director Rui Oliveira said: “We are now assessing the total damage and repairing some of the most urgent areas.”
In a statement sent to the press on Monday, Faro Airport said an emergency action plan to ensure the airport’s normal activities as soon as possible had already been drawn up and was to be implemented in three phases, with the first phase already in place and expected to run until this weekend, with the priority being to fly all stranded passengers to their destinations.
In the second phase starting next Monday, the airport hopes to have all the necessary conditions to accommodate all arriving and departing air traffic, albeit with limitations to the quality of service and customer care.
During the third phase, which could last from 10 to 12 weeks, part of the damaged areas are expected to be rebuilt in order to minimise inconvenience to passengers and ensure an acceptable level of service at the airport.
A further 12 weeks are expected to be needed until all damage is repaired and normal operations are restored at the airport.
The Faro Airport spokesman added: “We don’t believe this incident will put people off coming to the Algarve. There is no need to be alarmist about what happened. The positive image of the Algarve should not be affected by this.”
At the time of writing, several of the affected passengers had been placed on flights to their destinations and more were due to fly today (Tuesday).