October 21, 2011
Madeira: Disaster Blamed on Chaotic Urban Planning
In this article Portuguese environmentalists are now blaming the flash floods and mudslides that claimed at least 42 lives in February of 2010 on problematic urban flooding. One of the most awful natural disasters to occur in the history of this small mountainous Portuguese archipelago, which lies approximately 323 miles off the coast of Morocco in North Africa, caused ferocious rivers of brown mud to uproot trees and drag rocks and cars down streets, wiping out houses, bridges and roads in and around the capital, Funchal. For a long time environmentalists have voiced concern over the bustling urban planning and overdevelopment as the island experienced economic improvements through tourism over the last twenty or thirty years. They point the finger at luxury hotels and other real estate ventures constructed along the shore and near rivers, creating a barrier between storm run off and the ground making drainage impossible. After the most horrendous flooding on the island in 100 years, many places are still powerless, without water or communications, and government buildings and schools continue to be closed. The Portuguese government declared a three-day national mourning period. “The storm was one of the worst to hit any part of Portuguese territory in a century: on one Saturday it rained 114 litres per square metre in just five hours in Funchal, which receives an average annual precipitation of 750 litres per square metre.” The torrential rain, along with Madeira’s terrain of steep slopes slanting down towards the coast, were the cause of the creation of rivers of mud that uprooted everything in their way, bringing along boulders and slabs of cement bouncing in every direction. “Madeira has no weather radar, which would have helped meteorologists forecast the intensity of the rainfall, said Ricardo Trigo, a climatologist at the University of Lisbon's Geophysics...