As many as 422 vehicles were “totally destroyed” and many others damaged when fire broke out in the carparking area of a packed dance festival in Castelo de Vide, near Portalegre, yesterday. Damages are being calculated at “in excess of two million euros” as the only saving grace is that there were no serious injuries.
Six people were treated for smoke inhalation, but other than these light injuries, no one else was hurt.
Witnesses have said that the carpark’s siting on parched scrubland contributed to the horror.
“By the time I realised what was happening, the carpark had transformed into a sea of flames”, Hermínio Felizardo told Correio da Manhã.
“I managed to run to my car, but at each stride I heard the explosion of tyres and fuel tanks, and felt the billowing clouds of heat and smoke projected”.
Felizardo was one of the lucky ones, in that he managed to get his car out of the area in time before it was consumed by the ever-increasing fireball advancing through the lines of stationary vehicles.
Others were nothing like as lucky, with hundreds now completely stranded, miles from home.
The festival is a summer feature that regularly attracts thousands.
Yesterday, there were at least 4000 people intent on enjoying the celebration to Portuguese folkloric dancing when the alarm was sounded and firemen raced to the scene.
Last night, investigators appear to have ruled out any likelihood of foul play. The fire was caused by a short-circuit in one of the parked vehicles, says CM, and that vehicle has already been identified.
“I have never seen anything like it”, Pablo Cortez from Spain told the paper. “The place now looks like a cemetery for cars”.
But as everyone agreed, in final analysis, damage was only material.
“We lost our car”, a mother-of-two identified as Rosa told CM. “But I have my two daughters here with me, which is the most important…”
Meantime, the festival’s organising committee provided people with water, fruit and milk and got down to the difficult business of helping people and identifying vehicles and destroyed personal property.
Graça Gonçalves, in charge, stressed that the organisation “has insurance that will cover the damage and is in contact with the insurers to evaluate everything”, while the mayor of Castelo de Vide has called the incident “catastrophic”.
How people will be compensated will come clear within the next few days, but in the meantime, the high temperatures that contributed to yesterday afternoon’s disaster continue.
According to CM, the fire started shortly before 3pm and was helped on its way by strong winds.