Metro

Local Cape Verdeans join to support volcano victims

‘Catastrophic’ destruction by volcano spurs those in Mass. to help victims

Lava began to ravage the only building left standing in the village of Portela on the island of Fogo, Cape Verde.
Nicolau Centeio/EPA
Lava began to ravage the only building left standing in the village of Portela on the island of Fogo, Cape Verde.

Many local Cape Verdeans have traveled to Chã das Caldeiras, a picturesque village in the crater of a volcano on one the archipelago’s islands. It is renowned for its homemade goat cheese and full-bodied wines.

Now they are rallying to help the 3,000 residents who had to be rescued from the area around the village, which lies in ruins after lava and smoke began pouring from the volcano on the island of Fogo two weeks ago.

“We just all feel horrible and sad,” said Veronica Rosario, 33, of Dorchester, who is working with the United for Fogo initiative. “We’ve met the people who live there. . . . A lot of them are family members and friends.”

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Chã das Caldeiras, situated within the volcano’s crater, had been evacuated at the first sign of volcanic activity on Nov. 22, Prime Minister Jos Maria Neves of Cape Verde said in a statement. And midmorning on Nov. 23, Pico do Fogo erupted for the first time in almost 20 years.

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“Homes have been destroyed, schools demolished, churches crumbled, and small businesses reduced to ash,” Alberto Montrond, the elected coordinator of the political party MpD-USA who represents Cape Verdeans in North America, said in a statement.

The volcanic onslaught has ebbed and surged over the past two weeks. Hopes that the eruption was winding down were dashed Friday night, Montrond said, when small hot spots became a second large eruption.

By Sunday night, the situation was “catastrophic,” Montrond said.

Cape Verde media reported about 90 percent of the village and farmland engulfed, with lava flowing about 590 feet per hour. Churches, wine distilleries, the school — all were destroyed, Montrond said.

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“It is the main source of farmland and food for the island, and partially for the nation,” he said. The crater — full of rich, volcanic soil — contains the country’s first and largest wine production area, “which is pretty much gone now.”

The government reported no injuries or deaths, but said the 1,200 evacuated Chã das Caldeiras villagers lost their homes and possessions.

More than 180 children are among those displaced, which is especially painful for Rosario.

“One of the highlights of Fogo is to see all the young kids there; they’re all happy and smiling,” she said.

A group of about 20 volunteers formed United for Fogo after the eruption, Rosario said.

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The initiative launched a three-day Internet campaign that raised more than $13,000. That fund-raiser is now closed, so the money can be sent as soon as possible to the island.

The Fogo Fund, a relief nonprofit, has also been opened, Montrond said. Donations to fogofund.org will go directly to those affected, he said.

Linda Caplan, 33 and her husband, Bryan, 28, live in North Weymouth and visited Fogo, where Linda’s family lives, a few years ago.

They started the Fogo Fund while following the news coverage of the eruption.

“I was beyond devastated from watching the images and listening to the Portuguese news,” she said. “I’ll do whatever I can to help my people out.”

Local groups have a range of charitable events planned and continue to accept donations for Chã das Caldeiras.

Volunteers spent most of Saturday in the Brockton warehouse of Mattress Maker of New England, packaging the donations that have come pouring in from Boston to Providence.

The groups have already received “tons of clothes,” Rosario said. United for Fogo is hoping for more donations of hygiene products and nonperishable food.

A Sunday night jam session fund-raiser at Candibar — previously Underbar — in Boston featured four local Cape Verdean DJs and asked for a $25 donation for entry.

The fund-raiser is a part of the United for Fogo initiative.

Deep in the basement dance club, pulsing bass and swirling lights were a backdrop for a fashion show and a display of Cape Verdean paintings by Elicia Teixeira, 24, of Jamaica Plain.

“It’s a reminder to us as Cape Verdeans, because we are divided into 10 islands,” said Leila Depina, 36, of Brockton. “Gathering Cape Verdeans from different islands, bringing Fogo back to their attention, is very important.”

Officials said Cape Verde’s diaspora communities, like those in Massachusetts, are vital. Over 60,000 Massachusetts residents have Cape Verdean lineage, making it the largest Cape Verdean diaspora in the United States, according to the 2011-2013 American Community Survey.

The Caplans hope to raise $10,000 for each displaced Fogo family. This goal is a stretch, they said, but a necessary one.

“These are local folks who don’t have a lot,” said Evandro Carvalho, the Dorchester state representative who left Cape Verde for the United States about a year after Pico de Fogo erupted in 1995.

“I remember how shocking and how detrimental it was to the country,” he said. “It’s one thing to read about it, but it’s another thing to be on the ground and feel it.”

Jennifer Smith can be reached at jennifer.smith@globe.com.