ANALYSIS: Should Madrid be declared a disaster zone as true cost of storm damage emerges?

As the snow melts, Madrid is counting the true cost of the historic storm and has asked for the city to be declared a disaster zone.

ANALYSIS: Should Madrid be declared a disaster zone as true cost of storm damage emerges?
Photo: AFP

Storm Filomena will go down in history for bringing one of the heaviest snowfalls in living memory, transforming Madrid into a winter wonderland that saw its residents ski across the capital and stage epic snowball fights on its emblematic avenues.

But once the fun was over, the snow turned to slush and then packed ice and the true cost of the storm started to emerge.

Emergency rooms in Madrid’s hospitals became saturated with patients seeking treatment for breaks and fractures sustained in falls on the ice.

Businesses remained closed as employees struggled to get to work  and supermarket shelves emptied with delivery trucks unable to navigate the icy streets to replenish supplies.

Schools in the capital will remain closed until at least Monday and possibly beyond until snow could be cleared and damaged buildings made safe.

“By Monday it will still be difficult for us to get them there with all the necessary (safety) guarantees that a child needs to go to school,” warned Madrid’s deputy mayor Begona Villacis on Thursday.

At least 20percent of trees were damaged in the storm and branches broken off under the weight of snow still lie blocking roads and doorways. Madrid’s parks remain closed.

Sheet ice and solidified snowdrifts has collected on the sidewalks and rubbish bags are piling up beside overflowing bins, uncollected by waste services while streets are still unaccessible.

Ice blocks pile up alongside uncollected rubbish in Malasaña. Photo: Fiona Govan/The Local


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 “A catastrophe happened in Madrid, it has severely affected the city’s normal functioning and public services, and severely damaged personal property and economic activity,” Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida told reporters on Thursday.

The mayor, along with Madrid’s regional premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso want the central government to declare the area a disaster zone, a classification that would trigger emergency subsidies.

Martinez-Alameida estimated that more than 1.25 million kilos of snow fell on the capital during the 30 hours of continuous snowfall that began on Friday and continued into Saturday.

He illustrated the point by saying: “If we filled a line of trucks (with cleared snow) each with a capacity of 40,000 kilos, it would stretch from Madrid to Brussels.”

More than 8,000 city workers are out on foot across Madrid assessing damage, clearing snow and removing damaged trees, the mayor said. 

Groups of neighbourhood volunteers have also been out on clearing pavements and spreading salt in a bid to make walkways more manageable.

Photo: AFP


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Outside of the city in the rural areas of the Community of Madrid, the storm has brought devastation.

Entire olive groves have been irrevocably damaged, crops ruined and livestock stranded without shelter or food.

Dairy farmers have reported the loss of at least 10,000 litres of milk from herds within the Madrid region alone, as trucks were unable to complete deliveries.


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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.