Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visited the country’s flood-stricken southeastern regions yesterday as the death toll rose to six and train and air services were disrupted for a third day.
Some of the heaviest daily rainfall on record has inundated areas in the regions since Wednesday, causing chaos on the roads, cutting public transport and prompting rivers to burst their banks.
Flash floods swept away cars and swamped homes and fields in the regions of Valencia, Murcia and eastern Andalusia.
The latest fatality was a middle-aged man whose body was found by police in a field at a hamlet near the city of Orihuela in Valencia, a spokeswoman for the central government’s office in the region said, without giving details.
Five people died in separate accidents in the previous two days as they tried to cross flooded roads in cars, including a man whose vehicle got stuck in a tunnel on Friday in the centre of the coastal city of Almeria.
After observing the damage from a helicopter flying over the city of Orihuela in the region of Valencia, Sanchez visited a command centre for emergency operations.
Later he offered his condolences to the families of the dead and said that the government would do everything it could to help the survivors.
“All those who have been affected need to know that the Spanish government will help so that at least they can repair many of the material damages caused by this extraordinary meteorological phenomenon,” he told reporters as he arrived in Murcia.
Sanchez said water levels need to lower before the government can make an estimate of the total cost of the damage.
“The catastrophe will have serious economic consequences,” the head of the regional government of Valencia, Ximo Puig, said during an interview with Spanish public radio, before adding that “thousands of people” depend on the fertile area’s orchards for work.
In addition to some 1,500 people who were evacuated earlier, officials on Friday removed another 2,000 residents of the town of Santomera in the region of Murcia as a precaution due to a controlled release from a local dam to avoid overflowing, the interior ministry said.
Footage broadcast on Spanish media showed firefighters evacuating babies through the window of a flooded home and rivers of brown water gushing down streets.
The storm moved further west yesterday, causing a flash flood in the village of Alhaurin el Grande in the province of Malaga, washing away about a dozen cars, local officials said.
The southwestern city of Seville closed all public parks yesterday due to the risk of heavy rainfall, city hall said in a tweet.
The airport in Murcia, which was closed on Friday, re-opened yesterday.
However, one flight which was due to land in Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla was diverted to Malaga and another flight was cancelled due to low visibility as a result of the storm, a spokeswoman for Spanish airports operator AENA said.
Rail services across southeastern Spain remained disrupted yesterday, with several routes suspended such as one linking the coastal cities of Valencia and Alicante, the state-owned train operator said in a statement.
Last year 13 people died on Spain’s holiday island of Mallorca as intense rain caused rivers to overflow with raging waters that tore through streets and swept away cars.
Meanwhile, in Spain’s normally rainy northwestern region of Galicia, firefighters backed by four water-dropping aircraft were battling a wildfire raging near the village of La Gudina that has so far ravaged 440 hectares (1,000 acres) of land, the regional government said in a statement.
Another three smaller wildfires were burning in Galicia, it added.
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