Ladies and Gentleman, if I ever had any doubts that I was living in the wrong place, let me tell you that over the last week and a half those doubts have been completely erased. Madeira may be a small island but heck, when it comes to getting its ass into gear, (excuse the expression) by God, it surely shifts it.
As you all know, Madeira was hit by a freak flooding on the 20th February. I live on the island. Not everywhere was affected, but the areas that were suffered great loss and serious damage.
Everywhere else in the world, clean up operations are carried out solely by the military. Not here! I have never seen so many people volunteer to help out in the clean up of anywhere. Adults, children, the more mature in age; everyone who is able bodied and can chip in in some way. In the barracks where I've been volunteering, I even had a french lady (who was on holiday here) show up and lend a hand. Goodness knows how many tourists helped out along the seafront.
The fact of the matter is, on friday I tried to go into the city and couldn’t. The roads were all still closed. Last night, when I went to work, I could drive all the way from home right through the city, along the seafront, into the old town. Admittedly, one of the dual carriage ways is still closed but I bet any money that by tomorrow or the day after that will be open too.
The bars, cafés, restaurants and shops are now going back to normal. Tourists were sat admiring the marina. People were standing at the bus stops and life almost seemed completely normal. This is just 11 days after the terrible event. The extent of the work carried out made my jaw drop in utter amazement as I was driving and constantly repeating to myself: “wow.”
Even the road that completely collapsed in the famous footage out on the Internet has been completely rebuilt. One final coat of tarmac and it will be as good as new, open and ready for daily business. Anywhere else in the world clean up operations like this take months and months. Not here!
Villages that were left isolated without water, electricity and other amenities are all accessible in some way. They all have their amenities back in addition to supplies of food, clothes and other essentials. Schools and businesses are all back to normal.
Every day, people who have been staying in the barracks are being re-housed into temporary accomodation until they can be re-housed permanently. The government has promised to build 400 new homes.
The people who didn’t lose their houses completely have started rebuilding with bricks and cement. Neighbours are helping out. Communities are coming together. Someone cleans, someone digs, someone mixes cement and someone else lays bricks. It’s truly incredible.
The tourists we have here are even more amazed than I am. Talking to them, some admit they were a little anxious about coming here at first. Yet, seeing with their own eyes, they all end up telling me, they are so glad they came because if they hadn’t they wouldn’t have believed all this was possible in such a short space of time.
I can hardly believe it and I live here, and I feel so proud!!! Proud to be a part of a community of people who doesn’t just sit on their asses waiting for things to happen or for the government to bail them out. They’re making it happen!
I see small miracles every day and huge events taking place on the island all because of the dedication and hard work of its people; people just like you and I. The rest of the world could learn a thing or two from Madeira about how you really roll up your sleeves and just get on with it without waiting for others to do it for you.
If there are any doubting Thomas’ out there who thought the flower festival wouldn’t go ahead, think again! Then again, you don’t have to take my word for it, you could just come and see for yourself.