The Malta Independent 22 May 2019, Wednesday

Carnival enthusiasts describe the scene: ‘It was my worst nightmare’

Albert Galea Wednesday, 27 February 2019, 11:35 Last update: about 4 months ago

“It was the worst nightmare that I have been through in my life”.  These were the words used by a carnival enthusiast who saw the fruits of many months of work about to be blown away by the record storm that hit Malta last weekend.

Malta and Gozo were battered between Saturday and Sunday by winds which, at times, hit hurricane levels and carnival enthusiasts were amongst those who came out of the storm worst as Mother Nature ripped through two huge tents which were providing shelter to a number of floats.

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The tents were no match for the 100 kilometre per hour winds and their destruction through Saturday night left floats open to the elements.  One float was totally destroyed by the conditions and the collapsing tents whilst a number of others were damaged.

Photos/Video Alenka Falzon

Some of these damaged floats have now taken up temporary residence inside a warehouse in the Marsa Industrial Estate, owing to a kind gesture by another carnival company whose work was unaffected by the inclement weather. The Malta Independent spoke to a number of these enthusiasts who saw, in front of their eyes, their work be battered by the weekend’s extreme weather.

Chris Aquilina, who heads the Tad-Deheb Carnival Company, described the scene as the worst nightmare that he’d ever faced and explained how the tent which housed his float and others was being thrown up and down by the wind, with its legs flailing in mid-air and how it then simply broke apart above the floats.

“When we saw the tent coming down on the floats, we genuinely thought that it had come down on ours”, Aquilina said.

Eventually Aquilina and three of his helpers, despite the danger and the pleas from Carnival director Jason Busuttil, ran into the tent only to find that the collapsing tent had just missed their float and that the tent poles had ended up wedged in the float next to theirs.  The only damage that Aquilina’s float had sustained was at the back.  The float was extracted from the shelter and moved frantically to the warehouse it is currently in that same night.

Kevin Chetcuti from Crusher Carnival Company was also there last Saturday at 1am and witnessed his company’s float take some damage as well. He explains that the damage was not particularly serious, but that a particular piece of the float had not yet been secured onto the float and had, as a result, been broken off by the storm.  He said that luckily a friend had offered them a garage in Birzebbuga where they were working to re-do this piece, after which it will be brought to Marsa to be stuck onto the float.

“We were there on Saturday night.  I simply told the team to pick their tools up and get out – it was frightening – the whole tent was at times three metres off the ground”, Chetcuti said before lamenting that it was disappointing to see all their work – which had been ongoing since last March – be destroyed in front of their very eyes.

Tonio Scerri, who leads Tonio Carnival Company, also saw his float sustain damage over the weekend.  They had just moved their float out of the warehouse that they are based in, owing to the fact that their building is not high enough to hold the fully set up float, Scerri explains. 

Eventually, he says, him and his helpers managed to get their float out at 1am; “had we not, the tent would have fallen onto it and we’d have saved nothing from it”.

The question on everyone’s lips now is simple: will they be ready for this weekend’s carnival festivities?

All of them are hopeful.  Aquilina says that there will be some long nights involved to get everything done on time, but is positive that come Saturday everything will be ready to go.  Chetcuti is similarly positive, saying that they will manage to get everything done, albeit with some changed plans, while Scerri says that his company will be making all the effort needed to be ready to go by Saturday as well.

One more common sentiment that all three, and surely every other enthusiast, share is that, come next weekend, the weather forecast is a positive one; and given all that they have been through in the past few days, who can really blame them?

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