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UKRAINE

Where are Spain’s nuclear bunkers and bomb shelters?

It's probably something you've never thought of before, but in the (still) highly unlikely event of a nuclear or military attack on Spain, where can people go to protect themselves?

Where are Spain's nuclear bunkers and bomb shelters?
A woman walks down stairs in the underground galleries of a Spanish civil war era bomb shelter in Almería. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

It may seem pretty dramatic to write about what one should do in the event of a (nuclear) attack in relatively peaceful Spain.

Spaniards even have a word for this kind of behaviour – catastrofista – meaning alarmist or pessimistic.

But if there ever was a suitable time to have some form of knowledge about refuge in times of war, now feels like the right time.

After all, with Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and their recent takeover of a Ukrainian nuclear plant – not before setting it alight (the fire was extinguished fortunately) – in the back of many people’s minds is what they should do if there were a nuclear war or catastrophe in Europe, or if Spain, as a member of Nato and the EU, could be at risk of attack from Putin’s Russia. 

The concept seems unfathomable in the 21st century and it’s impossible to predict what will happen next, but it would be fair to say the risk of something like this happening has increased in the last ten days, however marginally.

“If you are outdoors when a detonation occurs take cover from the blast behind anything that might offer protection,” reads the US government website Ready.gov about how to behave in the event of a nuclear explosion (needless to say, Spain’s Moncloa has no such website). 

“Lie face down to protect exposed skin from the heat and flying debris. After the shock wave passes, get inside the nearest, best shelter location for protection from potential fallout. You will have 10 minutes or more to find an adequate shelter.

“Be inside before the fallout arrives.” Nuclear fallout is the residual radioactive material propelled into the upper atmosphere following a nuclear blast.

“The highest outdoor radiation levels from fallout occur immediately after the fallout arrives and then decrease with time.”

“The best locations are underground and in the middle of larger buildings.”

There is more advice on ready.gov but we’re now going to focus on the locations in Spain that could offer the best shelter, whether it be from a bomb raid, or worse. 

Underground metro networks 

As has been evidenced in Ukraine in recent days, subways can double up as bomb shelters in the event of an attack. 

Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, Palma de Mallorca, Sevilla, Málaga and Granada all have metro networks which can act as an effective shelter for civilians in the events of a raid or other type of attack.

Cuatro Caminos station is the deepest in Madrid (45 metres underground), whereas in Barcelona it’s El Coll-La Teixonera (74 metres underground). 

Houses with bunkers

Although it must be said again that the possibility of nuclear war affecting Spain is incredibly low, having a nuclear bunker at home might now be on your list of priorities.

You aren’t the only one. Spanish home construction company ABQ claims to have put up over 400 alone in recent years, even before this latest Ukrainian invasion inspired fear and paranoia. Bunkeralia also recorded a spike in interest in their luxury bunkers at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

There has in fact been market demand for some years, and it seems rather unsurprising that the private home bunkers are generally built by wealthy homeowners on private property.

Prices vary according to size and other features, but according to ABQ, the most basic 50-square-meter bunker – able to shelter a maximum of 25 people for 15 days – costs a whopping €45,000, whereas the much bigger bunkers that look like luxury apartments go for at least €1 million.

La Moncloa, Madrid

Like all governments the world over, Spain’s official residence of the Prime Minister at La Moncloa in Madrid is well kitted out when it comes to surviving a nuclear holocaust.

La Moncloa has a basement bunker of 7,500 square meters, three-metre thick walls, an operating room, secret entrances and even a cemetery. There are also refrigerated areas with food, drink, and medicines to see out any prolonged fighting or radiation.

Almería

There are 67 entrances spread out across the Andalusian city of Almería to a network of air raid shelters some nine metres below the surface, extending around 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles) underground.

Built during Spanish civil war times, they could fit 37,000 people, roughly three-quarters of the city’s population at the time. 

In 2006, Almería city councillor Miguel Cazorla pushed to have a one-kilometre stretch of the shelters restored and turned into a museum, which now welcomes thousands of visitors a year. 

Lights illuminate an underground gallery of a Spanish civil war-era bomb shelter in Almería. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

Parque del Capricho, Madrid

Also in Madrid, this 2,000 square-metre bunker is at 15 metres underground.

It is believed the Capricho bunker can withstand bombs of up to 100 kilos, and was known as Posición Jaca during the Spanish Civil War, when the bunker was used by the Republicans to defend Madrid from Nationalist besiegement.

When under attack, high-ranking Republicans sought refuge in the bunker, and although it is now covered in a thick layer of moss, around two-hundred people could take refuge there today if a nuclear bomb was ever used in Europe.

Barcelona

Perhaps you’ve already been to the Carmel base in Barcelona without even realising. Millions of tourists have been up there as it provides some of the best views of the city, and although it was an anti-aircraft base it is now unclear how prepared it is for action due to its tourist attraction role.

The Catalan capital is also home to hundreds of anti-aircraft shelters under the city, you can find out where here

The Carmel bunkers are a viewpoint with some of the best views of Barcelona. Photos: Tibor Janosi Mozes/Pixabay, AFP

Torrejón de Ardoz Air Base

The Torrejón de Ardoz military air base, near Madrid, is home to Spain’s biggest bunker at over 10,000 square metres. It can house up to 600 people and can withstand the direct impact of powerful 2,000 kilo bomb.

The Canary Islands

The Atlantic archipelago, some 1,700 kilometres from the Iberian peninsula, could arguably one of the safest places to be if war were to break out in mainland Europe. 

A series of military bunkers were also built in the Canaries during World War Two as part of various contingency invasion and defence plans. Fearing a British invasion of the Canaries and other surrounding islands as part of ‘Operation Pilgrim’, Spain fortified its defences on the island with the help of the Nazis, and supported them in their planned ‘Operation Felix’ invasion of Gibraltar to gain control of the strategically crucial Straight of Gibraltar.

Those that remain – particularly what are known as the ‘Pillboxes of Lanzarote’ – are thought to be in relatively good condition considering their age.

Other bunkers across Spain

The Spanish government doesn’t have official data on the number of bunkers available to the general public across the country, but there are more than those listed above. 

Córdoba province, Galicia, Extremadura, Murcia, Valencia and other regions have little-known air shelters and bunkers, many of them privately owned by individuals or businesses. If you wish to search for a bunker near you in Spain, it’s worth remembering that the word for bunker in Spanish is the same – búnker

A bunker in Albendín, Córdoba. Photo: Edmundo Sáez/Wikimedia (CC)

How does Spain compare?

Albania is home to the most underground bunkers in the world, with roughly half a million according to BBC data, built as a result of Cold War paranoia in the country under their communist leader Enver Hoxha.

In Switzerland all new constructions must include space for some kind of bunker by law, and in 2006 there were over 300,000 shelters with the capacity to house 114 percent of its citizens.

Sweden is also reported to have 65,000 fallout shelters across the country. According to Subterranean Britannica, there are 258 nuclear bunkers spread around the UK.

READ ALSO:

What are Switzerland’s nuclear bunkers and does each home need one?

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UKRAINE

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
 
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
 
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
 
 
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant
“Sentimentai”.

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.

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