Spain’s Mediterranean coast fights the clock to repair storm damage

Tourism sector in Valencia, Catalonia and Balearics fears work won’t be completed by Easter

Ignacio Zafra

Two weeks after Spain’s eastern Mediterranean coastline was battered by storms, the seafront of the small tourist resort of Almenara, in Castellón, looks like a war zone. “It’s as though a bomb had dropped and made half of it disappear,” says Estíbaliz Pérez, the Socialist Party (PSOE) mayor of this town of 6,000 residents whose economy largely depends on visitors with holiday homes here.

The seafront at Almenara, in Castellón, after storms last month.
The seafront at Almenara, in Castellón, after storms last month.MÓNICA TORRES

The storms that have lashed the Mediterranean since November have left beaches swallowed up by the sea, showers and wooden walkways destroyed by waves, promenades devastated and streets badly damaged.

The slow pace of repair work and rebuilding in coastal towns has officials worried that they will not be ready in time for Easter, when the tourism season begins.

We are responsible for maintenance, but this is too much for us

Official in Muro, Mallorca

“It is very important to be ready in time, and I hope that at least the promenade will be finished. It is impassable at the moment, and it is a danger. But we’ll have to hurry because there is a lot of damage,” says Almenara’s mayor.

The €1 million cost of repairing the promenade will be borne by the central government. Tourist organizations in Valencia’s two other provinces, along with Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Murcia, are all calling on local, regional and central governments to work together quickly to repair the infrastructure.

“We want our beach infrastructure to be in perfect condition within two months. Not just for Easter, but because it would reflect badly on us in the summer if we don’t,” says Luis Martí, president of the hotel federation of Valencia.

Spain’s Environment Ministry says it is to spend around €28 million on repair work to around a hundred towns damaged by the storms. The government says the work will be completed by Easter.

Valencia has called on Madrid to help with the cost of repairing damage  to 59 towns

Responsibility for coastal infrastructure is shared by the central and regional governments, as well as local councils, although the latter say they are largely unable to do much.

Muro, a small town in the northeast of Mallorca, is a typical example. Jaume Ramon, the councilor who heads the environment department, says he lacks the resources to clean the two kilometers of beach currently covered in debris left behind by the storms. “If it isn’t cleaned soon, it will work its way into the sand and by Easter it could be dangerous for bathers. We are responsible for maintenance, but this is too much for us, that’s why we have asked the regional government for help.”

Malgrat de Mar, some 60 kilometers north of Barcelona, is waiting for the Environment Ministry to help repair a road to two campsites that was washed away last month. The town of San Javier, in Murcia, has just been told that the central government has approved funding to help repair badly damaged beaches.

The regional government of Valencia has called on Madrid to help with the cost of repairing damage caused to 59 coastal towns.

Francesc Colomer, head of the Valencia region’s tourism agency, says that an overarching plan is needed to protect Spain’s beaches from the impact of extreme weather, which is expected to become more frequent due to global warming.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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