7.00: Fires in Funchal centre
A thick pall of smoke lies over central Funchal this morning after last night’s fires, with still the heavy scent of burning that we have quickly become used to over what is little more than 36 hours. The “good news”, if there is any, is that the strong warm “sirocco” type winds that have dominated most of the last week have subsided – at least for the time being. This is the front page of today’s Diario:
More details to follow here – hopefully – the volume of traffic keeps pulling the blog server down. If you get a message “Resource limit is reached”, apologies!
Help arrives from Lisbon
Overnight 115 fire-fighters have arrived from Lisbon, to be joined later by another 20 flying in from the Azores. Authorities at midnight admitted that “the fire was still not under control”. Public sector workers have been told to stay out of the city centre today.
Choupana Hills consumed
The Mayor of Funchal confirmed in the early hours that the flames completely consumed the flagship hotel ‘Choupana Hills’ located high above the city near the football stadium that is visible on the skyline to the east of the city.
50 houses destroyed
The President of the Regional Government of Madeira, Miguel Albuquerque, said in the early hours that around 50 houses had been lost in Funchal so far. Around 600 people are now being looked after at the army base in Funchal. About 20 foreign were evacuated from Quinta Jardins do Lago, above Rua 5 de Outobro as you head towards the motorway from Funchal. One person is reported injured and was treated in the emergency room of the main hospital in Funchal.
This as a photo taken a short while ago from the Diario online, showing the fire now centered on Pena.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that at least three people may have died in the fires last night at Travessa Silvestre de Freitas, Pena. More fires are reported in the suburb of Boa Nova.
The three fatalities above have been confirmed. Two other people were seriously hurt, one person is missing and more than 300 people required medical treatment for smoke inhalation and minor burns.
First hand accounts locally seem to indicate that there has been a reduction in the number and intensity of fires now the wind has dropped. One note of caution, however, comes from the IPMA, the Portuguese “Met Office”, which forecasts hot weather and strong winds continuing on the south coast.
Meanwhile the Diario has published a photo by photographer Rui Silva of ASPRESS showing the shocking state of the Choupana Hills this morning – previously it had not been possible to get near the hotel.
Appeal for help for displaced
The Regional Secretariat for Inclusion and Social Affairs, through the Social Security Institute of Madeira, in a statement this morning called on islanders (and presumably any visitors) who wish to support the displaced population (now approaching 1000) to make donations of food and other basic necessities t the “RG3” Army base in Nazaré, The specifically mention the following items:- yogurts – dry cakes / muffins;- cheese;- ham; – underwear, – sanitary towels; – shower gel; – shampoo; – toothbrush; – toothpaste; – deodorants; – shaving products; – napkins. They also request pens acetate and tapes to identify new people to flow to RG3..
15.00: A lot of complaints today about response times and the blog server being short of resources particularly when new comments are being posted – I am afraid it is simply overloaded with a maximum of 100 users at any time. A “denial of service” attack by a competitive media outlet is also a possibility – not for the first time.
16.30: Friends in the eastern end of the island are reporting a fresh cloud of smoke above Funchal – although from here I cannot see any fresh outbreaks within Funchal itself. Taxi drivers in Santa Cruz are apparently declining any trips to Funchal.
Paúl da Serra
Antena 1 have just posted a video of Paúl da Serra, an area in the western-centre of the island and a major road that many tourists will have travelled, on the link below (go to the second video, before the first starts playing):
Update: A fourth fatality has been confirmed from the fire last night at Rua Silvestre de Freitas in Pena – particularly “close to home” as we used to own a property on the same road a few years ago. Meanwhile a petition asking that the maximum penalty to be increased for those who ignite wildfires to 25 years in prison had, at 20:00 today, close to 25,000 signatures