Heavy rain causes flash flooding across southern Spain

Andalusia, Murcia and Valencia were all on alert on Tuesday as heavy rainfall across southern Spain caused flash flooding and forced many schools to close.

Heavy rain causes flash flooding across southern Spain
Flash flooding and school closures due to heavy rain in Spain. Photo: Josep LAGO / AFP

Classes were cancelled in more than 30 municipalities due to heavy rains on Tuesday, mainly in the areas of Murcia, Almería and Alicante. 

The Emergency Coordination Centre of the Region of Murcia attended a total of 117 incidents related to the rains in the early hours of Tuesday morning, mostly in the Mazarrón and the Campo de Cartagena areas. These included flash flooding and rescues of people trapped in vehicles.

Cartagena and Mazarrón have been on red alert since four in the morning with a forecast of “extreme risk of accumulated precipitation in one hour of up to 61 mm”.

At 5:30am Tuesday morning, the General Directorate of Emergencies of the Autonomous Community activated level 0 of the Special Civil Protection Plan against the Risk of Floods for the entire region of Murcia. 

The local police in Murcia have closed seven streets to traffic due to the presence of water bags and the risk to the population, while in the town of Lorca, municipal nurseries, offices and street services have been closed.

The conditions also forced the interruption of train services between Cartagena and Murcia from 5:09am to 9.15am on Tuesday morning and the Hospital de Rosell in Cartagena was flooded. 

The president of the regional government, Fernando López Miras, already announced on Monday night that teaching activity in universities and all educational centers in 14 municipalities would be suspended. 

Valencia also suspends classes

Classes have also been cancelled in all educational centers in a total of 21 municipalities in the Valencia region, mostly in the province of Alicante. The State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) has predicted episodes of intense rain with peaks of 40 litres per square metre in just one hour.

There have also been several road closures across Alicante province due to trapped cars, flooding and rubble blocking the highways. 

The municipalities of Elche, Torrevieja and Orihuela have closed schools this Tuesday due to an orange alert for strong gusts of wind, heavy rain and adverse meteorological conditions, determined by the Emergency Coordination Centre of the Valencian Generalitat.

Almost 400,000 inhabitants have been affected by the closures, which have also included municipal sports facilities, public parks and gardens.

A record figure for the month of May, which hasn’t been seen in a hundred years, was recorded in Ontinyent with 127.4 litres of rain per square metre falling in the last twelve hours.

Regions on alert

AEMET continues to predict a significant risk from rain and storms for this Wednesday May 24th with accumulated precipitation of up to 80 litres per square meter in 12 hours, keeping parts of Andalusia and Murcia on alert.

Andalusia, Murcia and Valencia have been put on orange alert due to rains and storms, while in the central and northern parts of the country, Aragón, Castilla-La Mancha and Catalonia have been put on yellow.

Occasional rains, showers and even hail have been predicted for these regions. In the rest of the Peninsula and the Balearic Islands, scattered showers and storms are forecast in general, which will be particularly strong in areas of northern Aragón and Catalonia. 

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Storms lash drought-hit Spain

Spain's weather agency issued weather warnings for large parts of the country Tuesday as several days of torrential rains following a prolonged drought caused minor flooding.

Storms lash drought-hit Spain

The heavy rains have mainly affected the southern provinces of Alicante and Almería which have been hit by several thunderstorms since the weekend.

Torrential rains have also lashed Madrid, where several roads were cut on Monday night due to flooding.

Flooding also temporarily interrupted traffic along stretches of three of the Spanish capital’s 12 metro lines, local officials said.

State weather agency AEMET placed most of northern Spain on alert Tuesday due to the risk of thunderstorms, hail and strong winds.

Most of the eastern region of Valencia, which is home to important tourism resorts such as Benidorm, were also on alert, along with parts of central Spain.

Experts said the torrential rains – which tend to trickle off instead of seeping into the ground – were insufficient to end the deficit in Spain’s water reservoirs.

Spain’s reservoirs, which store rainwater for use in drier months, were at just 47.5 percent of their capacity during the final week of May, down slightly from 47.7 percent during the previous week, according to environment ministry figures.

That is well below the ten-year average of around 68 percent.

Spain has registered the driest start to a year since records began, with less than half the average rainfall during the first four months of 2023, according to AEMET.

The government earlier this month approved measures worth more than two billion euros to alleviate the impact of the prolonged drought, especially on the agricultural sector.

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Spain is the European Union’s biggest producer of fruit and vegetables, and the world’s biggest exporter of olives.