Floods sweep cars into sea, damage homes in northeast Spain
ALCANAR, Spain (AP) — Many Spaniards on Thursday counted their losses and damage to homes and businesses caused by flooding produced by intense rain that continued falling over large areas of the country.
The flash flooding, dangerous in some eastern parts of Spain since Wednesday, didn’t lead to any direct casualties. But two young German women drowned overnight from Wednesday to Thursday when they went swimming in the sea on the tourist-magnet island of Mallorca.
The victims were 23 and 25. They were part of a larger group of seven people, all German nationals, who were swimming past 2 a.m. in the morning, National Police and the island’s emergency services said. Four women and a man were able to come out of the water.
In Spain’s northeastern town of Alcanar, one of the worst-hit areas by the sudden downpour, residents said Thursday that they were fortunate that no lives were lost when over 250 liters per square meter (45 gallons per square yard) were dumped on the town between 12 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
“We had to get upstairs to our apartment and then leave it all in God’s hands,” said Rosa María Sancho, the 67-year-old owner of a restaurant on the Alcanar boardwalk.
The flash flooding quickly turned streets into swift rivers that swept away all in their path. Several cars were carried away and around a dozen ended up tossed into the surf of the Mediterranean Sea. Homes and businesses were filled with mud, water and debris.
Sancho’s daughter Carla Bayerri said that they watched helplessly as “part of the terrace went into the sea.”
Other parts of Spain’s central and northern areas, including Madrid and nearby Toledo, also saw flooding on Wednesday.
Firefighters used a helicopter to rescue three people in serious danger. More had to be pulled from cars that were caught in the rising waters.
Regional authorities relocated 58 residents into hotels, while another 16 spent the night on cots in a sports pavilion. Four people had to be rescued at a nearby camping ground that was also badly damaged.
Paquita Aubalat was relieved that her 93-year-old father Vicent was rescued from his home in Alcanar by a neighbor when it was overwhelmed by water.
“He had all his life in (his home), but the important thing is that he is safe,” Aubalat said.
Authorities were working to reestablish transit on roads and train lines made unpassable by mud and water.
Large areas of Spain’s north and its Balearic Islands remain under alert for storms for a second consecutive day.
Spain’s national weather service said that the country is seeing an increase in heavy rainfall and droughts linked to climate change.
“Spain is observing, above all in points of the Mediterranean, periods of torrential rain that are more intense and longer periods of drought that are interrupted by these intense rains,” national weather service spokesman Rubén del Campo said.
AP writer Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, and Aritz Parra in Madrid, contributed to this report.