It’s been called the biggest human tragedy to strike Portugal in decades … but as the number of victims continues to rise, the political fallout from the ferocious forest fire is only just beginning.
Questions are being asked about how ill prepared the emergency services were in a region known for drought and wild fires.
President of the direction of the volunteer firemen of Castanheira da Pêra, Baltazar Lopes claims his team was left alone and forgotten:
“We’ve been forgotten here. We didn’t have a single piece of aerial equipment . Corpses have been on the ground for too long before being removed. After this catastrophe we must think seriously about and change the civil protection authorities.”
AFP news agency (@AFP) June 19, 2017
There has also been criticism over the lack of a coordinated response and the government’s delay in calling for help especially from the EU’s specialised crisis management team.
MARTIN RUIZ DE GORDEJUELA, European Comission Spokesperson for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management:
“We are aware that a Member State can not cope alone with the natural disasters that unfortunately occur. In the summer season there are usually the forest fires, specially in the countries of southern Europe, hence the importance of this additional aid by the EU Member States.These medium-term plans provide an analysis of what is needed.”
The government has insisted the first response by the emergency services was swift and that additional fire fighters from around the country were quickly mobilised. But critics say whats was missing was a modernised warning system.