Nearly three months after a rock wall broke away and struck four speedboats, killing ten people and injuring several, the canyons of Furnas Lake in Capitol, Mississippi, have reopened to tourists.
Partial release of sea calls took place on the 30th with the approval of the mayor’s office. In addition to imposing new rules, such as requiring drivers to keep ships at a minimum distance from the breakwaters and respect the limits set for each section of the route, the municipality – about 282 kilometers from Belo Horizonte – has hired a team of geologists to assess the stability of the stone blocks on a daily basis.
According to the Municipal Secretary for Sustainable Economic Development, Lucas Arantes Barros, the movement of tourists over the weekend, the first since the opening, was small, averaging about 80 groups of visitors per day, as there was no such control. made before the accident, on January 8, it is not possible to compare. However, the influx of people is expected to gradually increase in the coming weeks, mainly due to the long holidays of Easter and Tiradentes.
“It must be taken into account that tourism is affected by many factors, such as the economic situation, the price of fuel, the season of the year… After so many years, traffic was good for the first weekend. Especially given that it was the end of the month,” Barros said. Brazilian agency.
Vitor Vasconcelos, board member of the Association of Tourism Entrepreneurs Capitólio (Ascatur), says the safety measures taken after the accident have been well received by visitors and those involved in tourism.
“We were concerned about how the new safety standards would be received. It turned out that everyone received them very well. Visitors not only follow all the rules, but also enjoy the rides,” commented Vasconcelos. Since February, the influx of tourists has gradually increased due to various other tourist attractions in the region, he said.
“It’s hard for a person who spends a week at the Capitol to recognize more than half of our tourist attractions,” Vasconcelos said.
In fact, the city, which is part of the Nacente das Gerais tourist route, has much more to offer than boat trips along the so-called “Mar de Minas”, as the 1,440 km² dammed Lake Furnas is commonly referred to. In turn, time is also not limited to the area of the canyons, where the five points of greatest risk of falling stones were identified.
“Only one section of the lake, where you can go boating, was banned,” Vasconcelos said. “Nevertheless, given the news, the movement’s decline reached 95% shortly after the tragedy. But if we compare the result of April this year with the results of previous years, the difference is not so big. It is also necessary to distinguish the impact of what happened on January 8 from what several tourist cities experienced,” commented Vasconcelos, citing the impact of heavy rains that hit the state earlier in the year on tourism as an example.
The municipal decree allowing boat trips on part of Lake Furnas stipulates that the return of the boats must take place in a controlled manner. All restrictions and safety lanes must be signposted. On the restricted route, designated as Section 1, a maximum of four vessels will be allowed to enter at any one time. The so-called Section 2 can only be approached by one vessel at a time, and stops are prohibited on this route.
Boats must maintain a minimum distance from walls as mandated by local authorities. All passengers must sign a consent form containing recommendations for the new visiting rules, such as the mandatory use of life jackets and helmets. Vessels over 32 feet in length cannot enter the canyons. The rest cannot reach speeds of more than 3 knots.
According to the mayor’s office, the new rules follow recommendations provided by geological surveys carried out after the January 8 tragedy and by the Minas Gerais State Civil Police. During a police investigation launched to investigate the incident, the civilian police concluded that the rocks were torn away from natural phenomena and that a “geological landforming process” was common in the region, contributing to the destruction of the rock blocks.
The civilian police submitted ten proposals to improve the safety of tourism activities on the lake, including limiting the number of boats passing through the canyons at the same time, improving the warning system, and mapping areas of greatest risk.
“At a time when access to the canyons was closed, we were able to create and implement a visitation plan to enhance and ensure the safety of visitors,” Barros assured, explaining that the City of Capitol is still exploring the possibility of installing metal retainers in at least five points in the lake to minimize the risk of landslides and rockslides.
“We are looking for resources for containment. We are also considering the possibility of installing an electronic territory monitoring system. In any case, the daily geological analysis carried out by professionals hired by the city hall, together with other regulations, already ensures the safety of tourism activities on the lake,” commented the secretary of the municipality.
After the tragedy, businessmen decided to team up to promote the region’s tourist attractions. The campaign, initiated by the Association of Tourism Entrepreneurs Capitólio (Ascatur), has already raised about 1 million reais. The amount that will be invested in the project, which, in addition to promoting regional attractions, aims to make the inhabitants of the region, especially those who work in the tourism sector, aware of the importance of the safety rules adopted after January 8, when a stone wall came off and hit four speedboats boats.
“Unfortunately, the new rules come with a lot of pain for losses,” said Vitor Vasconcelos, board member of Ascatur, referring to the measures the mayor’s office has put in place to allow the return of sea tours through the canyons of the Lago de Furnas area as a duty for tourist boats to hold on. at a minimum distance from rocky walls to avoid accidents in case of falling stones.
“Since January, many specialists have been coming to the city to conduct research. Today, tourism on Lake Furnas is much safer and more organized, but we need residents, entrepreneurs, in short, everyone who lives in the region to have access to this knowledge. Only then will we understand the meaning of the new rules and be able to present and justify them for tourists.”
According to him, people who have been visiting the canyons of Lake Furnas since the 1930s have accepted the new safety rules well.
Seventy companies in the region have partnered with the project, allowing a communications company to be hired to develop an action plan starting next week. “Fundraising was the easy part. So much so that the entrepreneurs themselves have already expressed interest in the second round, as we received very good offers and intend to make this type of investment again,” Vasconcelos said.
The Ascatur initiative has been added to the Reviva Capitólio – Viva o Mar de Minas project announced by the Minas Gerais state government in early February. The state proposal provides for the allocation of 5 million reais from the state treasury to ensure the safety of workers and tourists, as well as to develop tourism in the region – one of the most visited in the state.
The first stage of the state project, which is already being implemented, includes detailed geological and structural diagnostics. The second axis provides for the improvement of coastal zone management plans; director; zoning and water management not only in the Capitol, but also in São José da Barra and São João Batista do Gloria, who will apply the rules jointly.
In addition, the state government and the three cities should also promote, in partnership with government agencies and community organizations, educational activities to promote the safe and sustainable use of Lake Furnas. Finally, the fourth axis of the project provides for communication activities to promote the tourist attraction throughout the country.