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Portugal woman swept out to sea in religious ceremony

Published on 03/02/2017

Portuguese authorities searched Friday for a woman swept out to the Atlantic, reportedly during a religious ceremony honouring a goddess of the sea in the middle of a storm.

The 34-year-old was one of four people who were swept away by a wave on the Costa Nova beach in central Portugal on Thursday night while the coast was lashed by strong winds and huge waves, local officials said.

Three people managed to make it back to land but the woman has not been seen since.

Portuguese media said the four were part of a group of ten people who ignored warnings to stay away from the coast because of the rough weather and held a ceremony in honour of Iemanja, an Afro-Brazilian goddess of the sea.

Candles, fresh fruit, necklaces and a box with two pairs of shoes were found near spot where the group had gathered, daily newspaper Jornal de Noticias reported.

“We are determining what happened. What we know is that ten people were gathered and four were swept up by a wave. Despite all the warnings, this situation occurred,” Carlos Jose Isabel, commander of the nearby port of Aveiro who is leading the search effort, told reporters.

Devotees celebrate Iemanja, the supreme deity in the Candomble religion, every February 2 by wearing white and sending flowers out into the ocean for good luck.

Portugal counts an estimated 1,000 followers of the faith, which came to the country via its former colony Brazil — although officials say it is difficult to know exactly how many worshippers there are.

Most of Portugal’s coast was on “red alert”, the weather office’s highest alert level, on Thursday because of large waves, heavy rain and strong winds.