Residents with houses affected by flooding in January in Porto await solutions

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Residents of the Moinhos and Fontainhas neighborhoods, in Porto, who were left with flooded houses and at risk of safety in the January floods, are still waiting for solutions, after five months living with collapsed roofs and walls.

In the days following January 7th, residents of Moinhos, Pinheiro da Fonseca, and Fontainhas, typical areas of Porto located on the slopes of the Douro River, near the Infante D. Henrique Bridge, were crying for everything they had lost in the floods that caused chaos in various parts of the city, fearing new floods and housing insecurity.

Today, five months after the storm, the residents complain that little has been done and they still don’t know if their houses will be rehabilitated or if they will move.

Maria de Santos, 84, a retired woman living in the Moinhos neighborhood, in the parish of Bonfim, remembers “as if it were today” the fall she took in her house when it was flooded that day due to the torrential rains.

“I was sitting on the bed, my son had gone outside, because he heard all the water was coming here, he went and came running. He jumped out the window, which I couldn’t even open the door. He came here, he was out here and I was inside alone. And I, when I opened the door, I slipped and fell and didn’t get up again. My son got me up,” describes Maria dos Santos.

According to the resident, who is still limping along since the downpour, the flood reached the refrigerator, washing machine, microwave oven.

“It all went to waste, everything. I’m telling the truth,” says Maria Santos, revealing that she received a visit from the landlord about two weeks ago, who told her that after São João – a city holiday – he is destined to “resolve” the matter by moving to another house.

Maria dos Santos says she is desperate for a new house, because she is tired of living in those conditions, with her son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren.

Damião Gomes, 74, an ex-combatant of the Colonial War in Angola, also lives in the Moinhos neighborhood and has been waiting for a solution for five months.

On the day of the floods, Damião Gomes remembers that the water was one meter high on the street, and that in his house the roof collapsed.

“It was a lot of things to life. When I got home there was half a meter of water. Then it drained away. A washing machine I know is broken,” he said.

Damião Gomes recalls that in the days following the storm the Moinhos neighborhood was visited by the president of the Junta and the Civil Protection; however, until today he has not received support or official communication about where he will live safely.

“According to what we know, the [Porto] Chamber has already bought [the houses].”

Ana Oliveira, who has lived in that neighborhood for 40 years, says that she has heard that three residents have already left because their houses were in danger, but she doesn’t know what will happen in her case.

“I’m used to the neighborhood. It’s quiet here and I don’t have neighbors who bother me,” she said, revealing that she would like to stay.

On the day of the torrential rain, João Fernandes, a resident of Fontainhas, recalls that his wife was working and had been left to take care of the children, a 10-year-old boy and a months-old baby.

“At the time, the whole ceiling started to fall down, because it started to get very soaked, because it’s false ceiling, it wasn’t cement ceiling. It all started to fall down. Today, I have the ceiling just as you saw it. And to this day they still haven’t solved anything,” he says, fearing the worst.

According to João, the woman even went to the city hall and made requests to have the house inspected, but since the house is in no one’s name the authorities said they couldn’t do anything.

“We are at risk here. The house was only borrowed (…). If the owner of the house one day sends us away, we have to go. We’ve already asked the City Council, but the Council doesn’t help us at all,” said João Fernandes, recalling that social workers also visited the housing at risk, but the answer was that they couldn’t solve anything.

In downtown Porto, some shopkeepers damaged by January’s floods still have no answers to the identified damages and are desperate for government support. Others criticize the lack of cleanliness of the streets and the city’s drainage.

José Passos, owner of a restaurant with doors to the streets of Flores and Mouzinho da Silveira, next to São Bento Station, recalls that on that day, the establishment was flooded on the first floor and on floor -1, where the kitchen and bathrooms are located.

The chairs from the esplanades went to the Praça do Cubo, in Ribeira.

Questioned about the compensation from the insurance companies, José Passos recalls that he invested about 30 thousand Euros in the replacement of the restaurant floor, but reveals that he is still waiting for an answer from the insurance companies and state support.

“The Porto City Hall referred us to the government, to a ‘website’ that will do the so-called screening and that is related to natural disasters (…). Yes, we have already answered that it ends on May 02, but it’s not enough, because we have already made the financial investment,” he vented.

The businessman estimates that the wait will be long: “We don’t expect to receive it any time soon, unfortunately.

Adelaide Campota, 49, shopkeeper in the establishment Artigos Religiosos, in Mouzinho da Silveira Street in front of the crater in the road that the force of the water opened on January 7th, believes that “Thank God nothing happened” to her store.

The shopkeeper believes that the city is “very abandoned” when it comes to cleanliness and that this is probably why the floods happened.

“The street cleaning is very weak, but besides the streets there has to be that cleaning of the water draining. (…) I think that, in this sense, the City Hall is not doing a good job” or who is doing the works [of the new Metro line]”, he laments.

Asked about compensation to shopkeepers, Adelaide says she knows that some are still waiting for solutions.

“With those I talk to, they haven’t received anything yet. (…) “We, thank God, haven’t had anything. Because when the water was coming down Rua Trindade Coelho, which is right in front of our store, a huge hole opened up here and the water (…) was sucked through the hole in Mouzinho da Silveira,” he said.

The Lusa agency requested information from the Porto City Hall about the purchase of houses in risk areas in Fontainhas, and an official source from the city hall referred to the statements made on May 22 by the councilman of Urbanism, Pedro Baganha.

The Porto City Hall is initiating the necessary procedures to acquire the Moinhos island, which in January was affected by floods, reinforcing that it is “premature” to point out a future for that area.

“We are currently in the process of acquiring the entire island. These procedures include preliminary assessments of the contacts with the owners, which is in progress,” said the mayor at the time.

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