Big freeze knocks Spain out cold

Trees felled by heavy snowfall on a street in Madrid's Lavapies neighbourhood yesterday. After experiencing the heaviest snowfall in 50 years, the city restarted efforts to return to normal yesterday, despite shortages of snow ploughs and salt. With
Trees felled by heavy snowfall on a street in Madrid's Lavapies neighbourhood yesterday. After experiencing the heaviest snowfall in 50 years, the city restarted efforts to return to normal yesterday, despite shortages of snow ploughs and salt. With the main roads cleared, the first buses were back in operation.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

MADRID • Extremely low temperatures, in some areas reaching record-breaking levels, swept central and eastern Spain yesterday, with the big freeze complicating efforts to clear countless roads blocked by snow.

With much of the country still blanketed in white following the worst snowstorm in decades, efforts resumed early to clear the streets of snow, ice and fallen trees despite the brutal cold.

At least three people died when Storm Filomena swept through the country over the weekend. Yesterday, Barcelona officials confirmed that another two people, both homeless, had been found dead, with all signs suggesting that they died of hypothermia.

"An icy morning with historically low temperatures, clearly far below the seasonal norm across the whole of the country," Spain's Aemet weather agency tweeted.

Overnight, temperatures in central and eastern Spain plummeted, reaching as low as minus 33.6 deg C in Guadalajara, near Madrid, said public television.

In the capital, the mercury fell to minus 10.8 deg C, the lowest in half a century, with Madrid's Barajas airport registering minus 13.2 deg C, Aemet said.

"Since 1920, there have only been 15 days which have been colder," Aemet Madrid tweeted.

After experiencing the heaviest snowfall in 50 years, Madrid resumed efforts to get back to normal yesterday, despite shortages of snow ploughs and salt.

With the main roads cleared, the first buses were back in circulation early yesterday. Until then, only the city's metro service had been operating, running a 24-hour service to enable key workers to get around.

The suburban Cercanias trains were also back up and running as were the high-speed intercity AVEs, although those serving medium-distance routes were still out of action, Spain's public television reported.

Ice is causing treacherous conditions across the city and the authorities urged people to stay at home, with Madrid's hospitals seeing hundreds of people turning up after falling.

The heavy snow has also damaged hundreds of trees, with the city's main parks shut and firefighters urging people to avoid walking under the branches.

With mobility dramatically limited over the weekend, supermarkets have run low on fresh produce.

But Mercamadrid, the capital's sprawling main food market, was to reopen yesterday, officials said.

Although the frost and snow will remain widespread in central Spain for the rest of the week, the temperatures will start to ease in the coming days, Aemet said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2021, with the headline 'Big freeze knocks Spain out cold'. Print Edition | Subscribe