Government ‘insensitive’ to region’s fire disaster

Forest fire victims are set to receive initial payments of 5.5 million euros from the government, but a state of public disaster will not be declared – a decision that has prompted condemnation from the leader of the Junta Metropolitana do Algarve, the area’s regional assembly.

Families who lost their source of income during the fires will be awarded an “immediate special survival subsidy” in the form of a one-off pay out. This subsidy will correspond to the payment of a minimum salary to each member of the family. Pensioners who lost their income will be awarded a subsidy in accordance with the value of their pension. Firemen who lost vehicles will be given financial support to acquire new ones, as well as a contribution for ‘exceptional expenses’ to those corporations who were involved in fighting fires.

According to Morais Sarmento, a government spokesman, the measures which were approved by the Council of Ministers “are aimed at minimising the damage caused by fires”, and may not be all the money made available to victims. “This is an intermediate phase – other measures may be taken,” he explained.

Morais Sarmento added that the state of disaster had not been decreed in any of the concelhos because this could have negative consequences, particularly as the Algarve is a region that attracts many tourists. However, support will be given to farmers who lost animals and agricultural facilities. In addition, three months’ worth of food will be supplied to those animals whose grazing areas were destroyed by the fires.

Despite these measures, the head of the Algarve’s Junta Metropolitana and Tavira Câmara, Macário Correia, described the government’s responses as “insensitive” in declining to declare a state of public disaster. “A declaration of public calamity would simplify administrative processes,” insisted Correia, who is to hold a meeting with the government to discuss further possible measures.