Gales and downpours cause large scale damage to Portugal

GREATER LISBON and Portugal’s east coast were battered by savage winds and torrential downpours on Friday.

The storms, which blew in from the Azores, flooded roads, felled trees, cut telephone and electricity lines, closed roads and put stations, bridges and airports out of action.

Intense downpours at Lourinhã (Lisbon) caused the Rio Grande to burst its banks, flooding a large part of the town.

In some parts of the town water levels rose by 1.5 metres, causing traffic circulation interruptions on various roads, as well as power cuts and residents had to be evacuated from their homes.

The historic town centre of Torres Vedras (Lisbon) was submerged under a metre of water, while shops, offices and schools were closed by the emergency services.

In neighbouring Bombarral, the train station was under water and services were cancelled. In historic Óbidos (central Portugal) firemen had to evacuate an 83-year-old pensioner living by the River Arnóia Bridge.

Sérgio Félix, Mayor of nearby Santa Maria said: “People are really anxious because their belongings are swimming in water. They’ve worked their entire lives to have a house only to see it flooded.”

Cut off

In nearby Caldas da Rainha (central Portugal), the village of Aldeia-dos-Francos was completely cut off because Highway 361 was flooded, while a local bank worker waded through waters up to his waist trying to save documents and computer equipment. The village of Sertã near Castelo Branco (central Portugal) registered the worst floods since 1927, with houses and commercial establishments plunged under water.

In the Santarém district of the Alentejo, rising floodwaters of the Bacia do Tejo tributary left Arneiro das Milhariças e Santos stranded, while in the historic templar city of Tomar, the downtown area of the city was flooded by the rising waters of the River Nabão, resulting in various families having to be evacuated and re-housed.

In Ericeira (Lisbon) a pensioner and a 33-year-old man had to be airlifted to safety by helicopter, while several houses lost parts of their roofs in the high winds.

Services disrupted

The atrocious weather forced the closure of several schools in Lisbon, while in Sintra the emergency services put the whole district on red alert.

In Lisbon’s Praça de Londres a huge tree in the Arco do Cego Park near the São João de Deus Church was ripped out of the ground, narrowly missing cars in the nearby car park as it fell.

The bad weather caused the flooding and closure of several Lisbon underpass tunnels including those of João XXI and the main railway line between Lisbon and Porto was cut in three places: between Fátima and Cacharias, Santana and Cartaxo and Ovar and Estarreja. On the Minho line, railway services were disrupted between Tamel and Barcelos while on the Beira Baixa line between Vila Nova da Barquinha and Almourol services were suspended.

In the Alentejo, roads were temporarily closed due to trees that had fallen on the roads in the high gusting winds.

In Faro in the Algarve a couple had to be re-housed after a strong gust of wind ripped the roof of their house, while in Mafra (Lisbon) the torrential rains caused the Rio Lizando to rise, flooding part of the historic town centre. Dozens of uprooted trees kept bombeiros busy around the clock.

According to statistics from electricity provider EDP, 100,000 were left without light, the Lisbon Circular Ring-road (CREL) was shut off to traffic from 5.30pm around Bucelas, while many parts of the country were without TV Cabo cable TV services and PT phone lines.

By Chris Graeme

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