The Maritime Police fielded 80 personnel this morning to oversee the demolition of 19 seized properties on the Ria Formosa island of Culatra, a process that will take two weeks.
The 06:00 wake-up from the police call saw many residents of Farol obliged to leave their properties located close to those targeted for destruction. For safety reasons, islanders were made to stand outside the safety perimeter with the demolition crews arriving at around 07:30.
Unable to return for two weeks, or until the demolitions are over, it is not known where these islanders will sleep as no provision has been made - nor was any warning given that they would be temporarily homeless.
Several residents still have court processes outstanding to protect their homes and they may be able to claim compensation if their petitions are successful after their properties have been torn down.
Commander Pedro Palma from the Maritime Police said his men were there to halt any confrontation between staff from Polis Ria Formosa and the residents but stated that there had been no trouble.
One man was taken away by the police as he refused to leave a house, barricading himself inside. His case for alternative housing will be looked at by Social Security and the islanders agreed that he had been living in a property, allegedly with the owner’s permission, for only two years.
In a statement, the Environment Ministry said that "In the intervention initiated today first homes are not targeted. Buildings that support the activity of fishermen and shellfishermen in the Ria Formosa also were safeguarded in this operation."
A new coastal plan that incorporates these islands is being drawn up for agreement next July and will take into account the islanders' views and needs. Island homes will be spared demolition if the occupants are allied to the traditional islander work of fishing and shellfishing.
Polis Litoral Ria Formosa yesterday announced a series of investments to improve the infrastructure on Culatra and it is hoped that these will go ahead and that island life can restart.
The gnawing worry of recent years has affected everyone involved as the island communities have fought a State machine intent on their removal. Under this intense pressure, the islanders banded together to form an impressive and effective campaigning front as they battled for their rights and their properties.