A man uses a canoe along a flooded road after heavy raining in El Raal, near Murcia, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Photo: AP)
Record rainfall claimed two more lives in southeastern Spain as it caused widespread flooding, raising the overall death toll to six from the storms, authorities said Saturday.
Emergency rescue workers saved thousands of people during the storm that slammed into the Mediterranean coastal regions of Valencia, Murcia and eastern Andalusia this week. Local authorities said some towns and cities reported their heaviest rainfall on record. The downpour forced the closure of airports in Almeria and Murcia as well as intercity train lines, major roads and schools.
A fifth victim was found late Friday by police in the village of Redován. News agency Europa Press reported that police said the 58-year-old man was swept away by rushing waters when he got out of his vehicle.
A sixth victim was confirmed by authorities on Saturday — a 41-year-old man in the town of Orihuela, where the Segura River overflowed its banks on Friday.
Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez flew over the devastated areas in a helicopter on Saturday.
“We deeply lament the news of a new victim in Orihuela,” Sánchez wrote on Twitter. “All my warmth and solidarity for the people affected by the heavy rains. Together, we will deploy all our resources and aid to help the population and return things to normal.”
The storms in this area are a yearly metrological phenomenon, but they have been particularly fierce this fall, turning fields into lakes and roads into surging rivers of mud that sweep away everything in their path.
The rain let up a bit Saturday after drowning the area for two days. Spain’s weather service decreased the alert for rain from “extreme danger” to “at risk” as the storm moved westward toward the country’s central region.
Some residents trapped by the floods had harrowing escapes. Some had to be airlifted by helicopter from the rooftops of buildings surrounded by water. Four people were stranded on top of cars in a flooded tunnel until help arrived by boat and jet ski. Sixty other people were pulled from rising waters at a campsite that was completely surrounded by rushing water.
Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said Friday that 3,500 people had been rescued from perilous situations. Police and emergency workers answering calls for help were backed up by 1,000 soldiers.