After years of drought-like conditions, southeastern Spain awoke to a state of emergency for flooding on Monday after a weekend of unremitting winds and heavy rain in which two people lost their lives.
Officials in Murcia, one of Spain’s dryest regions, have activated a Level 2 plan, which extends the available emergency resources from the regional to the national level. Military personnel have also been called in following heavy downpours in the areas of Campo de Cartagena and Mazarrón.
A man died on Monday in the Murcia municipality of Los Alcázares after being swept away by the current and falling into a swimming pool. The mayor, Anastasio Bastida, said that the streets in the downtown area are all under water.
The Segura River has overflowed in Orihuela, an unseen occurrence since 1987
Over 350 people have been rescued from their homes and cars since Saturday, according to a Monday morning update by Murcia’s emergency services.
The rains have caused partial road closures on around 20 roads across the region, and two lanes on the A-30 highway to Murcia city were cordoned off at Puerto de la Cadena after rockfalls.
The regional government has issued an alert through its Twitter account, recommending that people use their cars only if absolutely necessary “and always on major thoroughfares,” avoiding secondary roads. School classes have been cancelled in 28 municipalities.
The storm has dumped over 150 l/m2 of rainfall on three quarters of the territory of Murcia.
North of Murcia, in the Valencia region, the storms have been particularly intense in Alicante province, with rainfall of 59 liters per square meter (l/m2) registered in Montesinos, and 44 l/m2 in the popular tourist resort of Torrevieja. Regional authorities have issued a flood alert in the entire Vega Baja area.
A man was carried out to sea on Saturday morning in Finestrat, near the tourist resort of Benidorm, after trying to reach his quickly-flooding vehicle. An onlooker captured the moment when the man is pulled away by the waters on a road built over a natural riverbed that was the site of another deadly flooding in October 2011. His body was later found floating in the sea.
Meanwhile, children from around 50 towns in the provinces of Alicante and Valencia stayed home on Monday after authorities decided to shut down schools due to the heavy downpours.
In the town of Orihuela, in Alicante province, authorities reported that the Segura River has overflowed in several spots for the first time since 1987. Four nearby residents have been taken to Red Cross shelters for safety while the municipality remains on high alert because of the risk of flooding.
Rising rivers are also threatening homes in Ontinyent (Valencia province), Orihuela and Torrevieja (Alicante), where several people were evacuated between Sunday and Monday, while nine municipalities near the Júcar River remain on alert for rising water.
English version by Susana Urra.