Southeast Spain hit by worst storms in a century, 2 dead

September 12, 2019 - 9:30 am

MADRID (AP) — A large area of southeast Spain was battered Thursday by what was forecast to be its heaviest rainfall in more than a century, with the storms wreaking widespread destruction and killing at least two people.

The regional emergency service said a wife and husband, both age 70, were found dead inside an overturned car that floodwaters washed away in Caudete, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Valencia.

The Valencia fire department said in a tweet that emergency crews also pulled three people from a river. It provided no details.

The Spanish weather service AEMET classified the region as being "at extreme risk" as it forecast torrential downpours of up to 90 mm (3 ½ inches) an hour and up to 180 mm (seven inches) over 24 hours.

The storm was passing over the Mediterranean coast regions of Valencia, Alicante and Murcia during Thursday and Friday.

One of the first places to be hit was Ontinyent, a town south of Valencia, where the River Clariano flooded the streets Wednesday night. Almost 300 mm (nearly 12 inches) fell in 24 hours, which AEMET says is the heaviest recorded there since 1917.

Brown water rushed through streets, washing away cars, and almost reaching the tops of the front doors of houses along the riverbank.

Nearby, sandy-colored water surged over the top of the Pantano de Almansa reservoir and raged down its spillway.

The River Clariano rose nine meters (about 30 feet) in two hours around the Valencia town of Aielo de Malferit and tore apart a 16th-century bridge there, local mayor Juan Rafael Espí told Spanish private news agency Europa Press.

Closed roads and train lines disrupted travel. Trucks, trees and fences blew down, and a mini-tornado was also reported.

In Albacete, southwest of Valencia, 13 people were rescued from cars or from the roofs of buildings, emergency services told Europa Press. None was hurt.

Across the region, emergency services received hundreds of calls for help.

In Murcia, authorities warned people not to go out in their cars. 

The local Spanish government representative in Murcia, Francisco Jiménez, advised people to take "maximum precaution," adding that Thursday "is a good day to stay at home."

Local schools canceled classes Thursday and Friday for more than 300,000 students, according to Europa Press.

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