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!