Home | Short Stories | Nº 82 – There‘s no better Teacher than Experience …
with Photo gallery

Nº 82 – There‘s no better Teacher than Experience …
with Photo gallery

Faro, Saturday 10th April 2021

Any reconstruction following a devastating fire starts with the removal of rubbish caused by humans: charred plastic, broken glass, bent metal. The Estaminé restaurant, the only building on the island called Ilha Deserta in Faro, which burnt to the ground on 2 March, is now scheduled to be rebuilt. The difficulties with the insurance company that José Vargas, owner of the restaurant had to contend with, seem to be resolved. And in order to emphasise its affinity with nature and its sustainability the architecture will again consist entirely of wood, while the building will be fully and autonomously running on solar energy. Six tracking systems with 18 solar panels each plus 54 solar modules mounted on the roof will provide the power for the restaurant. Solar power will be used for cooking rather than gas as was the case before.

The lagoon island off Faro is a place of tranquility – when there are no planes thundering overhead and preparing for landing, to spit out millions of tourists at the nearby airport. The quarantine time during this pandemic has been good to the island’s wildlife. In spring many seabirds nest there. This is a place where no-one is allowed to live permanently. Only one building received a licence many years back now to serve guests in exclusivity; reason enough to encourage speculation on the part of some begrudgers, who claimed that corruption played a role in the licencing process…

This week, at the place that for many years was home to the Estaminé restaurant, work is starting to remove the debris. “Animaris”, the company taking on the project, has sent a team which has returned to the island to start eliminating the rubble. This new start has united the entire team in a symbolic gesture, to overcome grief and make room for hope.

The company employs 33 people. Not least with a view to them José Vargas decided, together with his family, to not let up and rather to set about the solution: rebuilding. The first phase will consist in removing everything left over from the sand and to start building the new “Estaminé”. The structure will be identical to the previous one: an autonomous restaurant that respects and protects the landscape and the surrounding nature, fully integrating itself within it. The goal is to achieve the reopening as early as July this year. We’ll see…

ECO123 doesn’t want to forget that at the same time the victims of the Monchique forest fire are entering the third year of waiting for António Costa’s government to finally grant the mountainous region 80 km away from the island the promised assistance needed to rebuild their burnt-down houses. They are also waiting to see that the burned-down forests – for the most part industrial monocultures – are not replanted with eucalyptus again, but sustainably, with a mixed forest, and that invasive tree species are kept in check. Thirdly, the injured parties are still waiting for the judiciary to finally solve the question of reparations and to convict the alleged responsible party, EDP-Distribuição SA. (overhead power lines) as arsonists.

Fires are extinguished with water. Those rebuilding the Estaminé restaurant shouldn’t forget to add a sprinkler system and a cistern this time. Prevention is always better than having to helplessly watch a raging fire, empty-handed. No fire service in the world is able to put out a fire on an island without a reservoir.

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Uwe Heitkamp (60)

trained TV journalist, book author and hobby botanist, father of two grown-up children, knows Portugal for 30 years, founder of ECO123.
Translations: Dina Adão, Rudolfo Martins, Kathleen Becker
Fotos: Uwe Heitkamp

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