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Posted by portugalpress on August 10, 2018

It was a speech in front of television cameras that caught the expression on the face of Monchique mayor Rui André to perfection.

The three-term mayor was watching interior minister Eduardo Cabrita with a look of complete mystification.

Cabrita, already pilloried for using the word “notable” to describe everything from authorities’ response to the monster blaze, to populations’ efforts to clear their land, described how he was “very happy to be here to celebrate the situation we are in”.

Seven days of fires, leaving over 27,000 hectares devastated, along with 50 homes and sundry businesses ruined, has left “zero victims”.

André’s own house is understood to have been damaged by the flames. Perhaps that is why his interpretation of the word ‘victims’ may be different to that of Cabrita, who revealed his mother is from Silves and that this means he can share in the “anguish” the people of that borough must have felt when the fire broke through its boundary.

But “Silves did not burn” and this week it will be able to enjoy its annual Medieval festival, he said.

Following on from Prime Minister António Costa’s remarks that Monchique was “the exception to the rule of success” in the government’s approach to firefighting (click here), this latest intervention will have left locals reeling.

As to the anger over heavy-handed police literally pulling people out of their homes as the fire advanced, Cabrita was unwilling to be drawn.

“Anyone who encourages populations to put themselves at risk is committing an appeal to crime”, he said.

But it was clear this was uncomfortable territory.

The minister went on to tour burnt areas and prime minister António Costa is expected later this afternoon.

As for the reactions to his “celebration” of zero victims, these will come. There are many, many victims of these fires: not least the hundreds of animals that perished, and the people, families, and businesses that saw years of hard work heartbreakingly destroyed.

The owner of the Rouxinol restaurant in Caldas de Monchique for example has been on television this morning to say there is no chance that the building will ever be in a position to rebuild. It is a mass of charred rubble today that will no longer provide work for any of its staff.