Madeira victims won’t be handed out cheques

By Chris Graeme [email protected]

The Governor of the Autonomous Region of Madeira warned that businesses and residents affected by the devastating floods that caused over a billion euros of damage two weeks ago could not “expect to be handed cheques”.

Speaking in Lisbon on Monday with the Prime Minister, José Sócrates and the Minister of Finance, Fernando Teixeira dos Santos, they outlined three “priority areas” for the reconstruction of the island following the worst floods since 1920, which left 41 people dead and more than 600 hundred homeless.

“We will carry out a very strict and thorough evaluation of the damage and will announce shortly what funds will be made available from the government,” said José Sócrates at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence of São Bento.

It was announced that a joint commission is to be set up by the Regional Government of Madeira and the Portuguese Government to coordinate financial support from public, private, charitable and European Union sources.

It was announced on Tuesday that the commission’s preliminary work to evaluate damages would be concluded by Easter.

A special emergency law is to substitute, for a two to three year period, the Regional Finance Law which will facilitate reconstruction.

After a two hour meeting behind closed doors which involved three Madeira government members and the Portuguese Minister of Internal Administration, Rui Pereira, the Minister for Finance, Fernando Teixeira dos Santos, the Prime Minister stated the three priorities.

Firstly, to re-establish adequate housing conditions for the homeless, secondly, to restore the economic life of the island, its shopkeepers, businesses and the hotel and catering trade, which will be done through government credit lines and thirdly, to repair public infrastructure in terms of roads, electricity and gas supplies and telephone and cable lines.

In an unusual show of cooperation and détente between Funchal and Lisbon in the wake of the February 20 tragedy, the new commission will “evaluate” what needs to be done in these three priority areas and how much needs to be spent.

The Prime Minister stressed, however, that the new Regional Finance Law was still up and running and would follow its usual course towards ratification, or not , by the President of the Republic, Anibal Cavaco Silva.

Alberto João Jardim, who is in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-serving elected government leader in Western Europe, having been in power since 1978, thanked the show of “solidarity that the Portuguese government and people had shown Madeira” since the floods.

The Regional Governor added that the commission would “study and cost up each and every works project in the reconstruction” and that “no cheque would end up being pocketed by anyone” neither would any house be built in cases that did not strictly qualify for it.

On Wednesday morning, the Portuguese Meteorological Institute (IM) put Madeira on Yellow Alert as high winds and rain lashed the island.

Madeira’s coast was put on Orange Alert as parts of the coastline were bashed by four and five foot waves.

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