Unique helicopter operation fails to end mosquito plague

Authorities literally took to the air in order to erradicate the plague of mosquitoes which has brought misery to residents and tourists in the Armação de Pêra area.

They hired a Kamov helicopter, featuring two three-blade rotors, to fly just above the surface of the water and create a combination of strong winds and whirlpools to kill the mosquitoes and destroy their eggs.

For each hour the helicopter was in operation, the estimated cost was €1,500, according to a report in the Portuguese press.

Yet, this unprecedented method, introduced last Wednesday, failed to solve the problem.

The plague of mosquitoes was caused by a ruptured irrigation pipe which contaminated the waters of the Alcantarilha stream that extends from Alcantarilha southwards to Pêra and Armação de Pêra, also leaving scores of dead fish along its margins.

This has led to an enormous increase in the number of mosquitoes breeding in the area.

One local resident, Helena Vieira, said: “I’ve lived here for 10 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. This plague is a horror. Besides that, we now have dead fish in the stream. It is sad to see a situation like this.”

A number of people who are particularly allergic to mosquito bites have had to receive hospital treatment.

Local businesses are also feeling the bite, especially restaurants, and the Armação de Pêra camping site claims they are only half full for this time of the year.

A beach restaurant owner has described the situation as “hell” and is not able to serve clients at night due to the clouds of insects in the air.

Mosquitoes take advantage of stagnant waters to procreate and can live for a period of weeks. They are attracted by the breathing, perspiration and body heat of human beings in order to suck blood.

Repellents can be used to deter the pests, but in the case of being bitten, one should wash the affected area with soap and water and avoid scratching. If the effects are more serious, a visit to a health centre is recommended.

The president of the Silves Câmara has said that the disinfestations will continue and a specialised company is in charge of the operation.