Spain’s Zaragoza braces for floods as Ebro river set to break its banks

A six metre water flow runs as Ebro river flows past the Spanish city of Zaragoza's cathedral on March 2, 2015. AFP PHOTO / CESAR MANSO
The last time the Ebro reached a height of 6.10 metres was in 2015, when the city of 700,000 people saw garages, homes, roads and businesses flooded. Photo: César Manso/AFP
Aragón’s capital and Spain’s fifth most populous city is preparing for the Ebro river that runs through it to overflow on Tuesday, following floods in other parts of Spain in the past days that have claimed two lives. 

The city of Zaragoza is preparing for some of its worst floods in years after a period of heavy rains and flooding in other parts of Aragón, Navarre and La Rioja in recent days.

Storm Barra has been accompanied by the thawing of snow at higher altitudes, which have caused rivers to rise rapidly in northern Spain.

Zaragoza authorities are on high alert and have urged residents to stay as far away as possible from the Ebro, Spain’s second longest and fast-flowing river.

On Monday they evacuated neighbourhoods and cordoned off areas of the city close to the river, many of which were transformed into parks and pedestrian zones when the city hosted the Water Expo in 2008.  

Different road accesses to the city have also been cut off and Zaragoza’s city hall has advised residents to remove their vehicles from flood-prone areas into parking areas they’ve provided.

Since Monday, Zaragoza’s inhabitants have been gazing out at the Ebro watching it crawl closer to the river banks and comparing it to previous floods.

According to the Ebro Hydrographic Confederation (CHE), the river will likely reach a maximum flow of 2,400 cubic metres and a height of 6.20 metres, its highest level on record, which has been forecast for Tuesday afternoon.

A section of the ARA-1 motorway, in Villafranca de Ebro near Zaragoza, collapsed when the Ebro broke its banks in 2015. Photo: César Manso/AFP

The last time the Ebro reached a height of 6.10 metres was in 2015, when the city of 700,000 people saw garages, homes, roads and businesses damaged by the floodwaters.

Two people have lost their lives in recent floods in the neighbouring region of Navarre, where two weeks of heavy rain have culminated in floodwaters engulfing cars and flooding homes.


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