PORTUGAL: STATE OF CALAMITY PROCLAIMED AS WORST FLOODS SINCE RECORDS BEGAN HIT CENTRE AND NORTH OF COUNTRY

Some areas of Portugal have registered their worst floods since records began. The recent floods are only the end of the line, because the land has been so saturated with rains for the last three months, that any excess water flows away. This flow of water is mixed with the already saturated mud, which follows natural water courses, firstly streams and then rivers. As the mud builds up, it creates blockages and rivers burst their historic banks. Should the rivers with more flow be restricted by a high tide at their mouth, the build-up of water and lack of flowage can cause dramatic effects. Low areas of important cities in Portugal have been submerged in water. Coimbra, for instance, Portugal’s third city, is partially submerged. It is stated that the main railway station is under three metres of water. To date, seven deaths have been registered and there are tens of homeless. Only in the last few years has the architectural community started to pay attention to the “historic hundred year theory”. This theory takes into account the last century of water course levels in any area where construction is to take place. Rivers rise and fall, levels of water increase and decrease over the years. In an area which might seem historically dry, it may be tempting to construct . However, sometimes the water level only regresses to its “normal” state after a hundred years, hence the “hundred year rule” and what may seem dry today can be under water tomorrow. Portugal is bracing itself for a further month of floods. The rivers Tagus, Douro and Guadiana have their sources in Spain and so it is not only the Portuguese rains which affect the country. If it rains heavily in Spain upstream, the Spanish authorities open the sluice-gates and even more water is released downstream. There is an old Portuguese proverb which reads “From Spain, neither good marriage nor good winds” (making reference to the political situation over the years, when Spain tried and failed to annex Portugal). Now with the storms raging, such national feelings cause the blood to boil.

TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.RU LISBON