Naval chief admits rescue services too short-staffed to offer round-the-clock protection

In a year when authorities’ response to shipwrecks and other tragedies at sea has come under heavy fire, Portugal’s head of the Armada and National Maritime Authority has admitted that rescue services “do not have enough people to guarantee preparedness 24/7”. Talking at an award-giving ceremony in Figueira da Foz, Admiral Luís Fragoso stressed that safety had to be the responsibility of those who put out to sea.

It was a stark reminder in a week where one boatmaster is due to appear in court charged with negligent homicide over a shipwreck off the coast of the town in 2013 (see story elsewhere).

Awarding Maritime police agent Carlos Santos for the courage he showed in a sea rescue last month, Fragoso told reporters the tragedy had nothing to do with the fact the one of the rescue boats had been out of action.

“There was an alternative,” he explained. “But we still didn’t have enough people to send out, and thus our response was limited.”

As it was five men died in the sinking of the “Olivia Ribau” on October 6, and locals have wasted no time in blaming the authorities.

Carlos Santos was awarded the gold medal for “courage, selflessness and humanity” for his efforts to help bring to shore the only two survivors.

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