Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Hurricane Fred: Beach camps on Boavista again operating

On Monday, 31 August 2015, a hurricane swept over Cape Verde. In the morning hours, on the Island of Boavista the storm reached peak wind speeds of 120–135 km (75–85 miles) per hour. On the southern coast, waves piled up to seven meters above sea level.

The safety of our colleagues in the camps of Boa Esperança, Lacacão, and Canto could not be guaranteed any more because objects were flying around and tent and shading scaffolds collapsed. We had to immediately evacuate the camps. Personal valuables could be taken, but we had to leave behind the tents together with kitchen and other equipment.

We are very happy that none of our staff and volunteers was harmed! Thanks to the careful and prudent action of our team the worst was avoided.

By the next day (Tuesday, 1 September) the teams of Canto and Boa Esperança were able to return to the beaches and immediately started with the cleanup work. Some crew tents could be patched up so that they can be used until the end of nesting season in mid-October. For smaller common areas we still had spare material left that was immediately ready for use.

Turtle Foundation camp on the beach of Boa Esperança during rebuilding

Also the Lacacão team returned to the beach a bit later. Since this camp was more heavily damaged, and the weather became very hot immediately after the storm, the cleanup has been even more exhausting. During a tough three days, the team managed to rebuild the camp from its remnants so that a makeshift operation is guaranteed up to the end of the nesting season. On Friday, September 4, the night beach patrols were resumed.

Turtle Foundation camp on the beach of Lacacão during rebuilding

The hatchery at Lacacão fortunately was far enough away from the sea to avoid being flooded. However, it is possible that crabs invaded the hatchery since its fences had been shifted over by high sand drifts. Presently, there are 55 nests incubating in the hatchery, and we expect the first hatchlings from 16 September on. We now keep our fingers crossed that the eggs, buried deeply in the sand, endured the storm undamaged!

The turtle hatchery after the storm

In order to again having three functional camps on the beaches in the coming year, in the next months we have to spend significant but unplanned funds for new tents, shades, refrigerators, and other equipment.

We are estimating the damage caused by the storm at about 30,000 Euro.

Last but not least some good news: On the beach of Boa Esperança a young pig was straying around aimlessly – it had gone lost in the storm and now was at the end of its tether. Our team took it to the camp, where it was given the name Freddy and now enjoys the protection status of a mascot!

Freddy our new mascot

The Turtle Foundation says a great big Thank You! to our marvellous Boavista team! With team spirit and hard work it succeeded in restoring operational status of our camps in no time.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hurricane Fred destroys beachcamps on Boavista: A first report

(Bitte hier klicken um diesen Bericht auf Deutsch zu lesen / Please click here to read this report in German)

On Monday morning, August 31, a hurricane swept through the islands of Cape Verde. On our project island, Boavista, the storm brought strong winds and heavy rainfall, causing major damage. The airport had to be closed, electricity and internet went down, trees were uprooted and roofs were blown off. As far as we know, fortunately, no people were harmed.

Since the internet connection was up and running again the next day, Tuesday September 1, we were able catch up with our team on Boavista. It was a big relief to hear that all staff and volunteers are well and safe!

Our colleagues Red Hallsworth and Ukie Resende reported over Skype:
„There was no warning that the storm would develop into a hurricane. Stormy weather and heavy rainfall are normal for this time of the year on Boavista. On Monday morning at 9 a.m. we left our headquarter in Sal Rei for a routine delivery of food supplies to the Lacacão camp. On the way it became clear that this was not a normal storm. A river that hardly has running water most of the year had become impassable. Several vehicles were waiting there because the drivers were undecided whether they should dare to cross. The wind was so strong that the vehicles were pushed further. We broke off the attempt to get through to Lacacão in the south of the island.
The Boa Esperança camp on the north coast, which has mobile coverage, was the first to inform us that the situation was under control. The team wanted to stay and wait. But around noon the camp coordinators called again and asked to be evacuated, because the central kitchen and lounge tent had collapsed. We picked up the crew from the beach and brought everybody to Sal Rei.
For the team in Lacacão it was more difficult. In the south, the storm was raging more fiercely. There is no cell phone connection in Lacacão, and therefore we did not know if the team was safe. Once the storm had passed its peak, in the afternoon we tried again to drive to Lacacão. As a precaution, we had the pick-up packed with food, drinking water, cooking utensils, mattresses, towels and dry clothing.
This time we made it through. The twenty staff and volunteers had left the camp in the morning, after the tents were shredded and swept away by the wind. They walked to a nearby farmhouse, but could not proceed from there, because here a raging river had formed, too. We were then able to bring the drenched but uninjured group over the river with the pick-up.
The Hotel Riu Touareg, which is not far from the Lacacão camp, has a large desalination plant. There is a large room where the group could be accommodated temporarily. There they spent the night from Monday to Tuesday. All were exhausted and soaked, but in good spirits. The team stayed strong, and nobody was panicking."

Meanwhile, we have informed the families of all employees and volunteers that everybody is safe. Our field station in the village of Fundo das Figueiras continues to operate normally, and the Boa Esperança camp is currently rebuilt. It will resume operation this week.

The Lacacão Camp, however, has suffered more. The camp crew was evacuated yesterday (Tuesday, September 1) to Sal Rei and staying there for the time being. At the moment it is still unclear when the camp can be provisionally restored to the point that we can continue working there.

The turtle nests are most likely heavily affected by hurricane Fred, too. Large parts of the beaches were flooded, so it has to be expected that many nests are destroyed. The coming weeks will show whether hatchlings still will emerge from these nests.

Our colleagues from the organization Natura 2000, which is managing two camps on the east coast of Boavista, are facing a similar situation: the teams are safe, but the damage to the equipment is considerable.

Once the camps are back in operation, we will make inventory lists, in order to gain an overview of what can be repaired and what must be replaced. Definitely a lot of tents and scaffolds for the shading of the kitchen and lounge areas have been destroyed. In Lacacão a large volunteer tent, made from extremely rugged canvas, just disappeared, and another one was torn by the wind. The shade roof on the roof terrace of our house in Sal Rei was also carried away by the wind.

We estimate the damage to range around 30,000 Euros.

The Turtle Foundation would like to thank our great team on Boavista! Thanks to the prudent and well-coordinated approach by staff and volunteers alike, a potentially dangerous situation was avoided and all the staff and volunteers are safe.

To be able to rebuild our camps and to continue to protect nesting sea turtle females on Boavista from poaching we urgently need your help!


Hurricane Fred destroyed Turtle Foundation’s beach camps on Boavista

A hurricane passed through the Cape Verde Islands on Monday. On Boavista, the camps on Boa Esperanca and Lacacao beach were heavily damaged by the storm, tents were ripped in peaces and metal rods of tents and shadings were crushed. We are very lucky that nobody was injured and everybody is save. Currently we are surveying the damage, but we can foresee that at least the Lacacao Camp can not be rebuilt quickly. We will inform you as soon as we know more, please stay tuned!

Satellite imagery shows Hurricane Fred swirling off the coast of Senegal on Monday. Left from the midline the Cape Verde islands are indicated. Image courtesy: CNN