February 20, 2010, a violent storm hit Madeira, which is the main island of a Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic ocean of the north west coast of Africa. The storms with winds of over 60mph and heavy rains caused massive landslides and heavy flooding leaving many casualties over that weekend.
However amidst all this, once again local Scouts rose to the occasion and answered the call to be active participants in their communities. They rapidly organized relief and restoration efforts in order to help the inhabitants of Madeira. Here is a first hand account from Simone de Sousa (17 years) from the 571 Santo Amaro Scout group in Madeira.
"On Saturday 20 February 2010, Madeira awoke to the sound of a great rainstorm. By 11:00 am, we had radio and TV warnings that people should stay at home and not be out and about. This particular Saturday our Scouts group ( 571 Santo Amaro) had a dinner planned for fund raising. I had left the house early that morning to help with the dinner arrangements, and was already at the “scouts den”. Whilst we were there, we had the radio on and heard the alerts. More and more we were hearing of roads being closed due to flooding and mudslides, and even deaths. By this time of course we were completely worried. Needless to say, the dinner was cancelled. We all stayed together until the weather cleared and then we went home.
Once we got home and saw the TV, we were devastated to see the destruction and mayhem that the storm had caused. The amount of rain in a short period had caused major mudslides throughout the southern side of the island, as this is a mountainous island, the mudslides brought down trees and rocks, etc. This contributed to the collapse of houses, cars being washed away by “mud rivers” and people losing their lives. Downtown Funchal, was majorly affected.
By Sunday the storm had passed and we had a beautiful sunny day, but the storm had left its mark. We received a mail from our Scouts leader asking for volunteers to help with the cleaning of downtown Funchal. Due to the fact that schools were closed we could certainly help our fellow countrymen.
On Monday morning, we all met at an agreed location, equipped with shovels and gloves and were distributed certain areas to go and help. There were approximately 100 scouts elements involved with this voluntary action, the youngest being about 14 years old. Our work consisted of putting the mud into buckets with the shovels and carrying these buckets of mud out of shops, and onto trucks. We also helped taking out damaged furniture out of private homes and getting this same furniture onto the pick up trucks.
Our particular group helped at the Theatre clearing out all the muddy books and also at the Sugar museum trying to save historic artifacts and once again clearing out mud. Everywhere we looked there was mud and that was our major task, clearing the mud. No-one had ever seen such a catastrophe on our island.
Throughout the week, there were more and more volunteers, from all sectors. Madeira is a touristic island, and we need the tourism to survive, so we did everything we could to try get some normality back. There is much still to be done! There are still some Scout groups helping on weekends and with food, clothes and toy collections to give to the people that have lost everything in this disaster."
Simone ends her account by stating: “this is simply scouting! we are here to help! proud to be a scout! proud to contribute as best we can!”
More information :
The Heroes of Madeira (Flickr photo gallery)