By: CECÍLIA PIRES
A GERMAN tourist has died and another is missing, feared dead, after they were swept out to sea while visiting the cliffs at Forte de Beliche near Sagres.
Romana Schroeder’s body was recovered within 50 minutes of her entering the water on Saturday afternoon and is now at the Legal Medicine Institute at Portimão Hospital for an autopsy.
On Wednesday, when The Resident went to press, formalities were being completed by the Faro Civil Governor and the German Consulate in Faro to return the 30-year-old’s body to Germany.
Meanwhile, Maritime Police are continuing to search for Olaf Vopel, 41, who disappeared at the same time. The search area is
focused between Ponta da Piedade in Lagos and the Baleeira port, Sagres, and Farol de São Vicente.
It is understood that he was a parachutist who had been visiting the Algarve for the last few years to participate in the Parachuting Festival, which was due to take place at the weekend but was cancelled on Friday due to the weather.
Commander Marques Pereira, from the Lagos and Portimão Maritime Authority, told The Resident that as the body was not found in the hours immediately after the accident, the search operations entered “a less intensive level on Monday morning” and then intensified on Wednesday, as it was hoped that the body would be released from the rocks by then. According to reports, the couple were part of a larger group who decided to visit the Sagres area to take pictures of the landscape.
The place is easily accessible as it has an old stone stairway but “it is an area presenting some risk where nature is not controlled by man”, said Commander Marques Pereira.
It seems that while trying to get the best picture they did not realise the dangerous situation they were in. The alarm was raised at 2pm.
Commander Marques Pereira said it is clear that “a warning sign would be useful at that location,” adding: “The administrative control of the area is under the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e da Costa Vicentina (PNSACV), the natural park authority in the region.”
“There was a concession for many years to Pousadas de Portugal and during that time the place was quite visited,” he said.
The area where the tragedy occurred is now considered very dangerous and has been abandoned since the Pousadas de Portugal closed the fortress in 1999, due to the risk of cliff collapse.
No signs are visible in the area alerting visitors to the dangers and the beauty of the coast continues to attract many tourists who venture down the cliffs.
At the time of the accident, the region was on Orange alert from the Instituto de Meteorologia, the weather authority. Waves reached three to five metres and there were strong winds and heavy rain all weekend.
If the death of Olaf Vopel is confirmed, the number of people who have died at the cliffs of Sagres rises to five in just two months, the other three being local Portuguese fishermen.
In 2007, according to official figures supplied by the Maritime authority spokesman, five fishermen died as a result of falling from the cliffs into the sea in the Sagres area. And in October (see The Resident, October 26) three English people and one German died at Tonel beach, near the Sagres Fortress.
For more information about beaches and safety conditions, please visit http://www.marinha.pt/isn/. However, the website is in Portuguese only.
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