Mystery flares off Sagres coast

AN EXTENSIVE search and rescue operation sparked by reported sightings of two red flares off the coast of Sagres failed to find signs of a shipwreck or any other maritime problems.

The lights were seen by two fishermen on Praia do Tonel, next to the Sagres Fort, on the evening of January 27. One of the witnesses, José Manuel Jesus, phoned the president of the Junta da Freguesia, who alerted the maritime authorities.

According to Marques Pereira, the commander of Lagos Port, he was informed about the situation at 7.40pm. Sixteen minutes later, the lifeboat Rainha D. Amelia left Sagres in the direction of the flare sightings.

Jesus gave directions to the boat over the telephone, using a distinctive rock just off the beach front as a point of reference.


After a few hours of fruitless searching, the marines called upon the air force, who sent a helicopter from their base in Montijo (near Lisbon). Using a surface radar, the helicopter searched the area for two hours before returning to base.

At midnight, the General Pereira D’Eça sent one of their vessels to search a 16 mile area where they believed the boat could be. Another plane aided the search throughout the night and into the following morning.

As soon as it was daylight the maritime police searched 15 miles of coastline between Sagres and Praia do Pontal, but by midday on Sunday, Marques Pereira called off the search.

The two fishermen are insistent that they saw two red flares with a 10 minute interval in between each one. Jesus said: “When we saw the flares the sea was calm, visibility was good and there was little wind.”

Sightings of flares in the Algarve are rare, the most recent being in Lagos last summer when marines again found nothing after another extensive search.

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