Torrential rains pound southeastern Spain, death toll to 4
BARCELONA, Spain — Rescue workers saved thousands of people from rising waters as record rainfall pounded southeastern Spain on Friday, a deluge that authorities said killed at least four people.
The storm that slammed into the Mediterranean coastal regions of Valencia, Murcia and eastern Andalusia on Thursday and Friday left more than 3,500 people in need of emergency rescues, Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said. Some towns and cities reported their heaviest rainfall on record over the past two days.
The airports for Almeria and Murcia were closed, trains and roads were shut down, school classes were canceled and authorities asked residents to avoid driving.
The town hall of the city of Almeria, on the Mediterranean coast, said one man died after being trapped in a car when it drove into a flooded tunnel on Friday morning.
Police said the victim was a 48-year-old man who ignored police warnings not to enter the tunnel, as reported by news agency Europa Press. Police said his brother was also in the car but managed to swim to safety.
Emergency services in Andalusia said a 36-year-old man died before rescuers could reach him when his car was submerged in the town of Jámula, 62 miles inland from Almeria.
On Thursday, emergency services found a 51-year-old woman and her 61-year-old brother dead inside an overturned car that had been caught by the rising water.
Grande-Marlaska said that acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will visit the devastated area as soon as possible.
The storms in this part of Spain are a yearly metrological phenomenon in the fall, but they are particularly fierce this year, turning roads into muddy rivers that sweep away everything in their path, including vehicles.
In the town of Orihuela, 124 miles south of the city of Valencia, the Segura River overflowed its banks. The weather service for Valencia said 4.7 inches of rain had fallen in just six hours in Orihuela on Friday morning.
The surging Segura River forced police to close all the bridges crossing it in the city of Murcia as a precaution. Brown-colored water coursed through the city’ streets, carrying away parked cars and inundating the bottom floors of houses in many towns.
“The storms have picked up and we are still in a very difficult situation due to the overflowing of the river,” Valencia’s regional president Ximo Puig told TVE. “This will have important economic consequences, but right now the important thing is the wellbeing of our people.”
The Spanish weather service AEMET maintained its alert for the region, saying it is “at extreme risk” from torrential downpours.
Local police, firefighters and rescuers were backed up by army units to answer the hundreds of calls for help. Around 1,000 soldiers were being deployed to the area.
On a highway near the Alicante town of Pilar de la Horadada, rescuers in a small rubber boat were towed upstream by a jet ski into a flooded tunnel where four people were trapped on top of their cars. They later appeared rowing out with the saved travelers.
The mayor of Los Alcázares, Íñigo Alfonso, asked for boats to help search for stranded residents in the town. Images showed streets and squares submerged by the floodwaters.
Emergency services for the region of Murcia, which is south of Valencia, said they have rescued 391 people from cars and flooded homes. Some stranded people had to be rescued by police helicopters from the roofs of buildings that were surrounded by water.
The Spanish representative for Murcia said army units rescued 60 people from a campsite that had been cut off by the floods.
“All the region of Murcia is flooded. We have never seen this situation before,” Fernando López Miras, the regional president, told TVE.