Storm Gloria: 12 dead and four missing as Spain counts the cost of devastation

A violent storm which wrought havoc across huge swathes of Spain's eastern and southern coastline this week claimed 12 lives and left four others missing, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Friday, blaming climate change for the extreme weather.

Storm Gloria: 12 dead and four missing as Spain counts the cost of devastation
The storm destroyed a bridge in Malgrat de Mar, near Girona. Photo: AFP

While visiting a trade fair in Madrid, the Socialist premier expressed his “solidarity with the families of the 12 people who died” and said the government would spare no effort to locate the four missing “as soon as possible”.   

Local authorities had previously reported 11 storm-related deaths since Sunday, when Storm Gloria hit the region bringing strong winds, torrential rains and heavy snow, battering Spain's southern and eastern flanks before moving north.   

Gale-force winds and huge waves of up to 14.8 metres (49 feet) high smashed into seafront towns, with dramatic images showing massive flooding that damaged shops, houses and restaurants.

A storm surge swept three kilometres (two miles) inland up the Ebro river delta south of Barcelona, Sanchez said.

“In some places, more rain fell in a single day than is expected in the entire year,” he added.   

“This is the seventh major storm which we have experienced since the start of the storm season,” Sanchez said, describing them as “more and more destructive” and noting that Spain was “especially exposed” to the effects of climate change.   

His new government on Tuesday declared a “climate emergency” and pledged to unveil a draft bill on transitioning to renewable energy within its first 100 days in office.

Photo: AFP

Barcelona city hall on Friday said the storm has caused damage worth €12.5 million ($13.8 million) in Spain's second-largest city in its first estimate of the cost of the bad weather.   

The city's nine beaches lost an average of 30 percent of their sand due to waves of up to six metres, it said.

The storm caused losses worth €62.6 million to the agriculture sector in the eastern Valencia region alone, according to the ASAJA union of young farmers.   

Valencia is Spain's largest producer of oranges, artichokes, pomegranates, plums and other crops.



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Spain urges holidaymakers to head home early due to snow and strong wind warnings

Nine Spanish regions were put on alert on Tuesday for heavy snow, rain and strong winds, with the country's traffic authorities calling for people taking holidays this long weekend to head home early to avoid the worst of the bad weather.

Spain urges holidaymakers to head home early due to snow and strong wind warnings
Vehicles stuck in traffic due to a heavy snowfall near Burgos, northern Spain, in March 2021. Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

Aragón, Castilla y León, Catalonia, Navarra and the Basque Country will be on orange alert from Tuesday for snow storms, while Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja and La Comunidad Valenciana are on the less-severe yellow alert, Spain’s State Meteorological Agency (Aemet) announced.

A slight increase in temperatures will increase the risk of avalanches in the Pyrenees and the central Cantabrian mountain range.

Some roads in the north of the country are already being affected by snow and are being restricted to some traffic such as trucks and heavy vehicles.

Spain’s traffic authority (DGT) called on residents in the northern half of the country to return early from the puente (long weekend) marked by the public holidays of December 6 and 8, ahead of heavy snow forecast for Wednesday.

Of the 108 main roads affected by the heavy snow in Spain, almost half of them are in the northeastern region Aragón.

Aragón, Catalonia and Navarra are at risk of avalanches, according to data from Aemet, while a storm warning has been issued for the coastal areas of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Catalonia and the Basque country.

Heavy rainfall is expected in Galicia, extending to Cantabria and the western Pyrenees.