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Posted by portugalpress on March 09, 2018

With the whole country braced for new storm ravages due to hit today, Faro mayor Rogério Bacalhau has called an urgent meeting with the government to discuss how best to protect the Algarve capital’s downtown area from flood damage.

The historic old quarter needs urgent works not only to ensure its immediate protection, but to be prepared for weather issues in the future.

After the devastating effects of last weekend’s tornado, Bacalhau “admitted the problem to the press”, explains tabloid Correio da Manhã today, saying: “In a first phase we have to resolve immediate problems” (these have included a much-reduced stretch of sand at Faro beach, wave damage to “some houses” and a hotel business) “and then, with APA (the Portuguese environment agency), Polis (the Ria Formosa protection authority) and the University of the Algarve, we will study what can be done to find a solution for the future.

“There are various possibilities”, he told CM. “We just have to work out with the technicians which one is best”.

The issues are not simply the damage suffered to Faro beach, but damage also to the barrier islands - named precisely because they act as barriers protecting the mainland stretch of coastline.

Said Bacalhau, hopes now are for this ‘urgent meeting with the government’ to “try and find a solution that gives greater sustainability to Faro beach”.

The news is being seen by battling Ria Formosa islanders as ‘bittersweet’ for the simple reason that they have been campaigning for greater protection for the little spits of land they call their home for years.

Today, SOS Ria Formosa says on its Facebook page: “This is just what we told the Environment Ministry over a year ago”.

They suggest the plan presented (time and again) to visiting dignitaries pushing a campaign of property demolitions appears simply to have been ‘put in the proverbial drawer’ as it didn’t fit the accepted mantra that ‘houses’ are the problems on the islands.

They are not, says the group: “Who really knows these islands knows that the buildings make each one just a little bit more robust. We are already seeing the consequences of demolition work. If nothing is done, the barrier that houses made will disappear and we will lose the protection that we had in the past leaving everything much more vulnerable to the advance of the sea”.

As the group challenges, “just imagine what could happen to Olhão and Faro if the sea bore down on them without any barrier in the way.

“In the plan we presented, we listed a number of ideas to protect the barrier islands” and so protect the mainland.

At the time, all the islanders asked was to be able to discuss their ideas with the authorities.

“We all need to row in the same direction”, they say now… “We need open-minded policies that will reach long-lasting solutions”.

And as Faro and Olhão look out to sea this Friday, fearing the worst due in on the shoulders of Storm Felix, coastline towns east and west are preparing for what promises to be another dramatic weekend.