The collapse of the roof of the main stage at Semana dos Baleeiros, the biggest celebrations in the municipality of Lajes do Pico, in the Azores, which caused three injuries, was due to an “extraordinary atmospheric phenomenon”, the mayor said today.
The Mayor of Lajes do Pico, Ana Brum, told the agency that the weather forecasts for Sunday did not predict what happened that day, saying that there was “an extraordinary atmospheric phenomenon that was very localized”.
“It was a sporadic thing and it wasn’t foreseen. (…) Our municipal inspector followed all the procedures on the stage. (…) It was a phenomenon that wasn’t expected, there was even another stage that we have small with the philharmonics playing [and] we canceled the second philharmonic concert. So we would never have gone ahead with the main stage in that weather,” he said.
According to the communications office of the Azores Regional Civil Protection and Fire Service, the three injured were initially transported by ambulance to the Lajes do Pico Health Center and later sent to Horta Hospital, on the neighboring island of Faial.
According to witnesses at the scene, the structure collapsed due to the strong wind that was being felt on Sunday, the last day of the festivities in honor of Senhora de Lourdes, the patron saint of whalers.
The witnesses added that the only reason the tragedy wasn’t greater was because the accident occurred minutes before the stage was set to be entered by around half a hundred musicians from the Lajes Municipal Wind Orchestra, who were going to perform together with the Mimo’s Dixie Band.
“What happened was that one of the sound technicians and [two members] of the ‘Mimos’ team, who were going to play with our orchestra, had gone on stage to check things out and when they heard a noise, when the upper structure twisted, they jumped. As the stage is high, one of them had a sprained foot and the other a fracture,” explained Ana Brum.
The mayor accompanied the three injured people to the Health Center, where they were X-rayed “to rule out any problems”, but because one of them had a fracture, they had to go to Horta hospital.
“The injuries were minor, one of them just to analyze the situation, the second with a sprain and the third with a fracture,” he added, adding that “they’re all home now.”
Roberto Silva, former mayor of Lajes do Pico and father of a young man who was preparing to perform in the municipal orchestra, blames the executive for “ignoring” warnings about the location of the main stage at the festivities, which he believes was too exposed to the prevailing winds.
“The successive warnings, back in 2022, that the new location of the main stage for Whalers’ Week was at serious risk of collapse, due to exposure to the winds, were completely ignored and neglected,” lamented the former Socialist mayor, recalling that last year, “the stage was swept away by the wind, putting the lives of the people performing and the hundreds of spectators watching at risk.”
The current mayor assured Lusa that the safety procedures required for an event of this nature had been complied with.
“Compared to other Whalers’ Weeks in the past, we had security elements that were unusual,” assured Ana Brum.
The stage was awarded to a company and “at no time did the civil protection coordinator, the [council] inspector or the company” think “that there might be a problem” with the structure, she concluded.