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FLOOD

Spain’s PM visits flood-hit regions as death toll hits six

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday visited the country's flood-stricken southeastern regions as the death toll rose to six and train and air services were disrupted for a third day.

Spain's PM visits flood-hit regions as death toll hits six
A police car is parked on a flooded street on September 14, 2019 in Dolores as torrential rains hit southeastern Spain. Photo: Ramon/AFP
Since Wednesday, areas here suffered some of the heaviest daily rainfall on record, causing chaos on the roads, cutting public transport and prompting rivers to burst their banks.
   
Flash floods swept away cars and swamped homes 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 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.
   
The prime minister said water levels need to lower before the government can make an estimate of the total cost of the damage.
   
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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.
   
Spain's King Felipe VI also lamented the loss of life and the damage.
   
“May we all, with the help of all, be able to overcome the despair that now weighs on so many homes and families,” he tweeted late on Friday.   
 
The storm moved further west on Saturday, causing a flash flood in the village of Alhaurin el Grande in the province of Malaga that washed away about a dozen cars, local officials said.
   
The southwestern city of Seville closed all public parks on Saturday due to the risk of heavy rainfall, city hall said in a tweet.   
 
The airport in Murcia, which was closed on Friday due to the flooding, re-opened on Saturday. However two flights that were due to land on the holiday island of Ibiza were diverted to another airport and two other flights were cancelled due to the bad weather, Spanish airports operator AENA said.
 
Rail services across southeastern Spain remained disrupted on Saturday, with several routes in Valencia and Murcia suspended, the state-owned train operator said in a statement.

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WEATHER

In Pictures: Spain’s flood-devastated towns taken on massive clean-up

Spanish authorities and communities are facing a huge clean-up mission after flash floods provoked by intense rain washed away cars, filled homes with mud and knocked out power in many areas of the country.

In Pictures: Spain's flood-devastated towns taken on massive clean-up
Residents clean a street in Cobisa, Toledo province, after a flash flood destroyed much of their homes and belongings on Wednesday. Photo: Oscar del Pozo/AFP

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said emergency services were “working tirelessly” to protect people and restore “normality” to places affected by flooding “as soon as possible”.

One of the worst-hit areas was Alcanar, a town 200 kilometres (160 miles) south of Barcelona, where huge torrents of fast-moving water surged through the streets, sweeping away everything in its path.

Cars were dragged down to the seashore in Alcanar as huge torrents of fast-moving water surged through the streets, sweeping away everything in its path. Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP

Firefighters and local residents used brooms and hoses on Thursday to clear the streets of mud, tree branches and other debris.

A bulldozer removes mud from the streets of Alcanar. Photo: Lluis Gené/AFP

“It seemed like the world was ending,” Alcanar mayor Joan Roig told radio Rac 1, adding the town was “devastated”.

Two Alcanar residents scrape up the mud that engulfed their homes during the flash flood. Photo: Lluis Gené/AFP

Regional authorities relocated 83 people into hotels or a local sports facility.

The storm knocked out power to 10,000 homes in the northeastern region of Catalonia but as of Thursday only 200 residences lacked electricity, a spokesman for power firm Endesa said.

Heavy rain also fell in Spain’s northern Navarra region and in Madrid, forcing the closure on Wednesday of several metro stations due to flooding.

The Toledo province municipalities of Cobisa, Argés and Polán also bore the brunt of the torrential rain in Spain this week, where the force of the floods knocked down the wall of one local who shouted “Help!” desperately as a wave of mud and debris approached his home. 

Emergency services rescued several people from cars that were caught in rising waters but no fatalities were reported.

Destroyed furniture belonging to Cobisa neighbours among the rubble and debris left behind by the floods. Photo: Oscar del Pozo/AFP

Much of central and northern Spain, along with the Balearic Islands, remained on alert for storms on Thursday, according to the national weather office, Aemet.

The Murcia town of Aguilas was among the most affected by the floods on Thursday, having already experienced similarly destructive weather in March 2021. 

The heavy rain that’s caused chaos throughout much of Spain over the past days is expected to mostly subside on Friday. 

Debris and mud cover a street in Cobisa. Photo: Oscar del Pozo/AFP

Torrential rains are becoming ever more frequent in Spain, with flooding causing seven deaths in the southeast in September 2019, while another storm left 13 dead in the Balearic island of Mallorca a year earlier.

Residents clean a street in Cobisa. Photo: Oscar del Pozo/AFP

Experts say global warming has increased the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere, making episodes of intense rainful more likely to happen, raising the risk of flooding.

WATCH: Devastating floods and torrential rain hit much of Spain

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