Nine dead, four missing as Storm Gloria leaves trail of destruction in Spain

Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearics start to tally the damage to infrastructure caused by rain, wind, snow and waves

A sea of foam in Tossa de Mar (Spanish audio).Photo: atlas

The death toll from a powerful storm that swept through parts of Spain earlier this week has risen to nine.

On Wednesday authorities reported five more fatalities as a result of Storm Gloria, which began battering the north and east of the country on Sunday. Three of the victims died in the Valencia region and two in the southeastern Andalusian province of Almería. Spanish rescue services are also searching for four missing people, including a British national.

Image of the C-35 road cut between Hostalric and Fogars de la Selva. The storm has badly damaged the road network. Be very prudent, don't do anything risky!

The country’s eastern Mediterranean region has borne the brunt of Storm Gloria, where a combination of heavy rains, gusting winds and pounding waves have destroyed seafront promenades, toppled trees, flooded roads and brought down bridges, walls and even entire buildings. The low temperatures also brought snowfall to northern and eastern Spain beginning on Sunday, when the national weather agency Aemet declared a red alert in 10 provinces.

Although Storm Gloria had moved north by Wednesday afternoon, a weather alert remained in place in parts of Aragón, where 3,600 people are still without electricity due to downed power lines. And in Girona, the Onyar river was close to bursting its banks.

Girona is on alert due to the risk of the Onyar river bursting its banks.
Girona is on alert due to the risk of the Onyar river bursting its banks.EUROPA PRESS

Travel was affected as the dangerous weather conditions forced Alicante airport to halt hundreds of flights. Numerous roads were partially closed off, including the busy AP-7 highway linking eastern Spain with France. The storm also lefts thousands without power and shut down schools.

Catalonia, the Valencia region and the Balearic Islands have been particularly affected by the unusual weather system, which was still bringing heavy rain to parts of Catalonia on Wednesday as it moved towards southern France. Parts of Alicante province had rainfall of up to 600mm on Monday, and winds gusted up to more than 100km/h.

A business damaged by Storm Gloria in Jávea, in Alicante province.
A business damaged by Storm Gloria in Jávea, in Alicante province.Juan Carlos Cárdenas (EFE)

Five more deaths

In the Valencia region, authorities on Wednesday reported that a homeless man died during the night in Carcaixent (Valencia), while a woman was crushed in Alcoy when her house collapsed this morning; and police have found the body of a man who went missing after trying to cross a flooded spot in his car on his way from Benidorm to Callosa d’en Sarriá (Alicante).

In Almería province, in Andalusia, the death on Monday of a man who was sleeping in a park has been officially attributed to the stormy conditions, as the victim died of hypothermia. And a grower from Níjar (Almería) died after getting trapped inside his greenhouse during a hailstorm, the local police reported.

A man shoveling snow in Morella, in the Valencia region.
A man shoveling snow in Morella, in the Valencia region.Juan Medina (REUTERS)

Four missing

The Catalan firefighting service on Wednesday morning reported that a man in his eighties who went missing in Begues, in Barcelona province, has been found in a wooded area, “conscious but disoriented.”

Another man is still missing after reportedly falling into the sea in the port of Palamós (Girona) as he attempted to moor a boat. Rescue services are searching for another individual who was last seen canyoneering in Sóller, Mallorca. Two more people, including a British citizen, are unaccounted for in Ibiza.

A sea of foam

The storm dragged boats moored at sea all the way to the port of Pollença in Mallorca.
The storm dragged boats moored at sea all the way to the port of Pollença in Mallorca.Atienza (EFE)

Some coastal towns have been covered by white foam, creating unusual scenes that the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) said are due to “the presence of surfactants derived from the breakdown of organic matter found naturally” in the sea. The combination of strong waves and these foaming agents have covered the streets of Tossa de Mar (Girona) and Jávea (Alicante) with white bubbles. “Even the older residents I have talked to say they had never seen anything like it,” said Tossa mayor Imma Colom.

The city of Valencia had the highest wave on record at 8.44 meters, amply surpassing the previous mark of 6.45 meters set during the storm of January 2017. In Alicante province, the sea level rose by 1.5 meters, ravaging beaches and seafront promenades in Jávea, Calpe, Denia, Benidorm and other popular tourist destinations.

Ruined rice fields

In Malgrat (Barcelona), two bridges were swept away by the rising waters of the Tordera river, while in Alcoy (Alicante), a third home collapsed on Wednesday morning as a result of the damage, according to the regional daily Informacion. And local authorities in the Ebro river delta said that seawater has affected thousands of hectares of rice fields.

In September of last year, the Mediterranean region experienced another major storm that flooded large areas in southern Alicante and caused heavy material damage.

English version by Susana Urra.

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