3 dead as snowstorms hit Spain; motorists stranded

Storm Filomena brings record snowfall to Madrid, causes travel chaos across country

A snow-covered street in Madrid after Storm Filomena brought the heaviest snowfall in the Spanish capital since 1971. Four other regions in Spain were also on red alert yesterday, with more heavy snowfalls forecast.
A snow-covered street in Madrid after Storm Filomena brought the heaviest snowfall in the Spanish capital since 1971. Four other regions in Spain were also on red alert yesterday, with more heavy snowfalls forecast.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MADRID • Three people died in Spain and troops rescued drivers trapped by snow as Storm Filomena caused travel chaos across the country, with Madrid seeing the heaviest snowfall in decades.

The airport in Madrid was closed and skiers glided down the Gran Via, normally one of the busiest streets in the capital.

A man and a woman who were travelling in a car drowned after a river burst its banks near Malaga, southern Spain, and a homeless person froze to death in the eastern city of Calatayud, the authorities said.

"Let's avoid travel and follow the instructions of the emergency services," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted. "Let's be extremely careful in the face of the storm #Filomena."

Aena, which controls the country's airports, said Madrid's Barajas airport would remain closed for a second day yesterday, describing the situation as "exceptional and most likely historic".

It said at least 50 flights to Madrid, Malaga, Tenerife and Ceuta, a Spanish territory in North Africa, had been cancelled.

Apart from Madrid, the regions of Aragon, Valencia, Castilla-La Mancha and Catalonia were the worst hit by the snowstorms.

The State Metereological Agency said it was the biggest snowfall in Madrid since 1971, while Mr Jose Miguel Vinas, a meteorologist from Spanish National Radio, said that between 25cm and 50cm fell in Madrid, making it the heaviest snowfall since 1963.

The snow disrupted traffic on nearly 400 roads, and high-speed trains between Madrid and Valencia were cancelled.

Hundreds of motorists were stranded across the country. Soldiers worked to reach drivers stranded for hours on roads around Madrid.

The authorities suspended bus services and rubbish collection services in the city.

Ms Patricia Manzanares, who had been trapped in her car on the M-40 motorway in Madrid since 7pm last Friday, told RTVE television: "I have been stuck here without water or any other help."

The head of the Madrid region's emergency service, Mr Carlos Novillo, appealed for people not to go out in their cars.

"We have worked intensely. We have rescued 1,000 vehicles. We ask for patience, we will reach you all," he said.

Madrid and four other regions were on red alert yesterday as more heavy snowfalls were forecast until at least today, according to the State Meteorological Agency.

Storm Filomena has also brought intense rain and high winds to the Canary Islands as well as Spain's southern coast.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 10, 2021, with the headline '3 dead as snowstorms hit Spain; motorists stranded'. Print Edition | Subscribe