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Faial Island

Faial Island (Portuguese pronunciation: [fɐˈjal]), also known in English as Fayal, is a Portuguese island of the Central Group (Portuguese: Grupo Central) of the Azores, in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Capelinhos Volcano, the westernmost point of the island, may be considered the westernmost point of Europe (if the Monchique Islet, near Flores Island, is considered part of North America, since it sits on the North American Plate). The largest town in the island is Horta.

With its nearest neighbors, Pico (east across the channel) and São Jorge (northeast across the channel), it forms an area commonly known as the Triângulo (English: Triangle). The island has also been referred to as the Ilha Azul (English: Blue Island), derived from the writings of Portuguese poet Raul Brandão, due to the large number of hydrangeas that bloom during the summer months.
Along with other islands in the Azores archipelago, the island of Faial is volcanic, being one of the most volcanically active islands of the archipelago, and is close to the tectonic rift between the European and North American Plates. The island can be considered (from a geophysical perspective) the westernmost point of Europe (the two islands west of Faial, Flores, and Corvo, are already on the American plate).

The island is shaped as an irregular pentagon, that occupies an area of approximately 173 square kilometres (67 sq mi), and formed along a leaky transform fault extending from the mid-Atlantic Ridge to the Hirondelle faults. This is the same fault that bisects the remainder of the Central Group of islands along a west-northwest to east-southeast orientation. Although formed by complex volcanological events, the current landmass is dominated by the crater of its central stratovolcano with relatively gently sloping flanks, showing little sign of major erosion.
Administratively, the island is governed as one municipality, with its government seat in the city of Horta. Operationally, there are thirteen civil parishes with their own assemblies, three of which (Angústias, Matriz, and Conceição) constitute the principal urbanized core:

- Angústias; urban parish that includes the escoria cones of Monte da Guia, Monte Escuro and Monte Carneiro, as well as the island's hospital, the major hotels, commercial and container port, and many historical buildings (such as the Fort of Santa Cruz, The Cedars, and the Church of Nossa Senhora das Angústias): 3,025 inhabitants (2003).

- Conceição; urbanized and rural parish connected to the city of Horta, with 1,157 inhabitants in 2001. It was one of the nuclei of the modern city of Horta, location of the historic forts of Alagoa and Bom Jesus, and location of the Courts building and Fayal Sport Club (and football field).

- Matriz; the urban heart of the city of Horta, with 2,523 inhabitants (2001); landmarks include the Horta Museum, Sociedade Recreativa Amor da Pátria, Império dos Nobres, the historic Clock Tower, the former Walter Bensaúde Hospital and the Horta Archive and the Public Library, as well as the location of the Municipal Government (Câmara Municipal da Horta).
Faial has been affected by various earthquakes and seismic events during its populated history. The most important were the 1759–1760 earthquakes and aftershocks that occurred around Christmas and New Year. Similar in nature, the 1926 earthquake which rumbled the city of Horta, in early-April, where damages were reported in Flamengos, Ribeirinha and Conceição. Then, on August 31 at 8:42, a new earthquake caused eight deaths and ruined buildings in Horta, as well as the parishes of Conceição, Praia do Almoxarife (ruining 220 homes), Flamengos, Feteira and Castelo Branco, Salao and most of the Lomba do Pilar. Approximately 4,138 homes and buildings were partially or totally damaged. Similar tremors and events were felt in 1957–1958 (Capelinhos eruption), then in 1963, and again in 1973. The 1998 Azores earthquake on July 9, which shook the islands of Faial, Pico and São Jorge at 07:19 (its epicentre north-northeast of Faial) measured 5.6 on the Richter scale and caused damages to the parishes of Riberinha, Pedro Miguel, Salão and Cedros and stronger damages in Castelo Branco (mainly Lombega), Flamengos and Praia do Almoxarife. Eight people died in the earthquake and 1,700 were left homeless.
Faial's early economic growth was propelled by cultivation and processing of woad, a blue-coloured dye produced from the plant (in Latin) Isatis tinctoria It was the only source for blue dye until the end of the 16th century[citation needed] when Portuguese trade routes started bringing indigo from the Far East. Economic and population growth was also spearheaded by many legends of tin and silver, perpetuated by members of the Portuguese court.

The economy of the island generated some prosperity until 1957, when the Capelinhos Volcano erupted in the western part of the island, reactivating emigration to North America, supported by promises of aid made by Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy to the affected populations.

The main agricultural resources of the island are potatoes, cereals, fruits, and wines, along with cattle (which makes up its dairy and meat industry). The city of Horta is the centre of commerce and services of the island.

In the 1970s, after the Carnation Revolution, Portugal experienced economic growth, and an airport was opened; with it, tourists came. After Portugal's entry into the European Economic Community (EEC), the standard of living rapidly grew and today the population generally prospers.

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This text is based on the article Faial Island from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported (short version). A list of the authors is available on Wikipedia.