Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes has visited the Loulé area to see for himself the extent of the devastation caused by the recent forest fire in the Serra do Caldeirão region. He also met victims of the devastating blaze.
Santana Lopes visited the headquarters of the Associação Amigos da Cortelha and listened as local politicians agreed on the need for an urgent official report “evaluating the effectiveness of the means used to fight the fire, from when it started to when it was put out.” Loulé Câmara President, Seruca Emídio, who was also present, explained that the economic future of the people of the Serra is a huge worry.
He went on to praise Santana Lopes for taking the time to visit the region, saying that the Prime Minister’s visit to see the damage at first-hand was “important because he was able to see with his own eyes the drama that is being lived out by the people who were affected by the fires.” Speaking to an audience composed mainly of farmers and agricultural workers, the Prime Minister promised immediate aid for the most badly affected residents in the area, saying that he believed he could “normalise the situation and give help where necessary”.
Then Santana Lopes listened as members of the Associação de Produtores Florestais (Association of Forest Producers) listed their concerns about the vast area of burnt forest and promised to return to the Serra do Caldeirão again, “when the situation had calmed down”.
Since the visit, the government has confirmed that it will hand over around 850,000 euros to farmers in Monchique and Caldeirão at the end of this month. Secretary of State for Agriculture, Carlos Duarte, has confirmed that the money will be split into 350,000 euros to help feed families affected by the fires and half a million euros by way of compensation for loss of livestock. The government has promised that payments will be made with the minimum of bureaucracy, but Duarte warned, “funds coming from the state budget have to be rigorously examined”.
In a separate move, Macário Correia, President of the Junta Municipal Algarvia, announced that he had made contact with the Secretary of State for Regional Development, with the aim of securing financial assistance from the European Union, “bearing in mind that the area burnt in the Algarve represents half the total forestry area destroyed in Portugal up until now”.
Despite these figures, a recent meeting of presidents from the Algarve câmaras failed to reach agreement about a declaration of public calamity. The leaders of Monchique, Silves, Loulé, São Brás de Alportel, Alcoutim, Castro Marim and Vila Real do Santo António could not decide about the wording of the declaration, despite it being a step that had been demanded by many local authorities.
Although there was no consensus about a formula of words to describe the tragedy, Macário Correia stressed that “immediate measures are needed to support the population affected”.