One of Ria Formosa’s unexploded munitions “deactivated” on Culatra island

One of the trump cards held by Ria Formosa islanders – still wary of government threats to demolish their homes – has been the existence of “buried munitions”, particularly on Culatra island.

The hope has always been that the likelihood of unexpected explosions could put bulldozer drivers off.

But there have been those who scoffed at the stories, saying they were old wives’ tales – designed only to help locals desperate to hold on to their properties.

Well, this week, the scoffers have had to take stock as a suspected submarine torpedo was found, ready to pop, on the island.

Olhão ports captain Nunes Ferreira has told Lusa that it was most probably fired during an exercise as many as 20 years ago.

The torpedo was found last Wednesday by “a beach concessionaire” who immediately alerted the authorities.

A safety perimeter was set up and the explosive was ‘neutralised’ by 8am, reports Lusa.

Keeping an air of mystery to the whole affair, Ferreira told the State news agency that he could not reveal whether the torpedo was Portuguese.

“Some information is classified and reserved to the authorities,” he said, adding that the unexploded munition was found midway between Farol and Culatra, which suggests it was very close to Hangares nucleus – another focus for much-feared demolitions.

Lusa’s story ended with a frisson of disquiet. “It is important to stress that these kinds of munitions, despite appearing stable and secure, can be functional and with a full charge of explosives.

“Whenever one of these is discovered, IT SHOULD NOT BE REMOVED, and the local maritime authority should be immediately alerted via national emergency number – 112”.

For now – and particularly with the ongoing question as to who is in charge of the country – the last-minute demolition plans of Polis Litoral have gone strangely quiet.

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