Media focus on Portugal’s “worst-ever” outbreak of legionella died down weeks ago, but the collateral damage continues – and now “patient zero”, the first patient to be contaminated, has died.
Forty-eight-year-old Manuel Lima died last week in Porto’s Hospital de Santo António.
He contracted legionella after setting up scaffolding inside the cylinders of the factory found to be the source of the bacteria.
As his family prepare to join the ranks of those seeking compensation for the loss and infirmity of loved ones due to the deadly bacteria, newspapers revealed some of the heartbreak involved in this tragic story.
Manuel was not the only member of the family to fall victim to the scourge that swept through Vila Franca de Xira last November.
“His mother, Ambrosina, 74, also died – not because she had any contact with the industrial town, but because for one fateful night she took care of her ailing son before he was hospitalised, it is reported.”
“It’s not fair we lost two healthy people in such a short time,” Manuel’s daughter-in-law Fátima Ramos lamented as she talked to newspapers.
Lima is thus the 13th fatality in an epidemic that saw more than 370 cases throughout Portugal.
Last November’s outbreak has gone down in the record books as the “second largest of all time” (Wikipedia).
And while fertiliser company Adubos de Portugal has been identified as the source of the outbreak, Manuel Lima’s family told newspapers that they have never once received a word of apology or support over the loss of their loved one.
The Limas now join the battalion of families who will be battling for compensation through the courts.
As Vila Franca de Xira lawyer Andreia Figueiredo told O Mirante just before Christmas: “We could be talking about payments sufficient (in size) to bring a company to financial ruin, or close to it. Logically, a conviction could force the company to close altogether. We could be talking about a situation with extreme consequences for the company.”
As we reported at the end of November (see: https://www.portugalresident.com/post-legionella-fears-haunt-residents-near-rogue-factory) locals had long been wary of the health risks posed by Adubos de Portugal.
It was against this background that the community called for help from Vila Franca de Xira borough council, which turned the whole issue over to the town’s lawyers association.
O Mirante has since written informing readers that “all those affected can freely obtain the services of Vila Franca’s lawyers association”.
Andreia Figueiredo explained: “I am sure this will be an exemplary case of Portuguese justice. It will draw attention to a section of law that has not thus far been very valued, or worked on, and that is “environmental law”.
“In all aspects, this will be a case-study,” she warned.
By NATASHA DONN