A rare blizzard in Spain kills 4 and brings the country to a halt

A persistent snowstorm blanketed large parts of Spain with an unusual amount of snow on Saturday, killing at least four people and leaving thousands trapped in cars or at stations and airports which suspended all traffic. services.

The national meteorological agency reported that at 7 a.m., snowfall in Madrid reached a level not seen in half a century. More than 20 inches of snow fell in the Spanish capital, according to the weather agency AEMET.

The bodies of a man and a woman were recovered by emergency services in the Andalusia region after their car was washed away by a flooded river near the city of Fuengirola. The Interior Ministry said a 54-year-old man was also found dead in Madrid under a large pile of snow. A homeless man died of hypothermia in the northern city of Zaragoza, local police reported.

More than half of Spain’s provinces remained on severe weather alert for Storm Filomena on Saturday evening, seven of them at the highest alert level. In Madrid, authorities have sounded a red alert for the first time since the system was adopted four decades ago and called on the military to save people from trapped vehicles on everything from back roads to major traffic arteries. the city.

Snow hits Madrid as temperatures drop in Spain
People walk on the snow next to the Almudena Cathedral during heavy snowfall on January 09, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. Spain is on red alert for a second day due to Storm Filomena, which brought unusually cold weather and heavy snowfall.

Pablo Blazquez / Getty Images

Sandra Morena, who was trapped Friday night while commuting for her night shift as a security guard at a shopping center, arrived home, on foot, after an emergency unit from the the army helped her on Saturday morning.

“It usually takes me 15 minutes, but this time it was 12 hours of freezing, with no food or water, crying with other people because we didn’t know how we were going to get out of there,” said Morena, 22. years.

“The snow can be very beautiful, but spending the night stuck in a car because of it is no fun,” she added.

On Saturday night, Spanish security services rescued all those trapped in vehicles – more than 1,500, Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said.

AEMET had warned that some areas would receive more than 24 hours of continuous snowfall due to the odd combination of a stagnant cold air mass over the Iberian Peninsula and the arrival of warmer storm Filomena from the south .

Snow hits Madrid as temperatures drop in Spain
El ‘Oso y el Madroño’ (the bear and the strawberry tree ‘sculpture is covered in snow in Puerta del Sol square during heavy snowfall on January 09, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. Spain is on red alert for a second day due to Storm Filomena, which brought unusually cold weather and heavy snowfall.

Pablo Blazquez / Getty Images

The storm is expected to be followed by a sharp drop in temperatures in the coming days, the agency said.

The Minister of Transport, José Luis Ábalos, warned that “the snow will turn to ice and we will enter a situation that is perhaps more dangerous than the one we are currently experiencing”.

He added that the priority was to help those in need, but also to ensure the supply chain for food and other basic products.

“The storm has exceeded the most pessimistic forecast we have ever had,” Ábalos added.

Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas International Airport, Spain’s main entry and exit gate, will remain closed at least until Sunday, Ábalos said, after the snowstorm battered machines and workers trying to keep the slopes free of snow.

All trains to and from Madrid, both suburban routes and long-distance passenger trains, as well as railway lines between the south and northeast of the country, have been suspended, a said rail operator Renfe.

The storm had caused serious disruption or closed more than 650 roads, according to Spanish transit authorities, who urged people to stay indoors and avoid all non-essential travel.

More than 100 roads were still impassable almost 24 hours after the storm began to dump snow on the central part of the country.

The Spanish government plans to take further steps to ensure that the country’s weekly shipment of the BioNTech-Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on Monday can be distributed to regional health authorities via convoys escorted by police, the minister said. ‘Interior.

Winter weather disrupted the country’s soccer league as some teams were unable to travel to matches. Saturday’s game between Spanish league leaders Atlético Madrid and Athletic Bilbao has been postponed after the plane carrying the Bilbao squad on Friday failed to land in the capital and had to turn around.

The regions of Castilla La Mancha and Madrid, which have 8.6 million people in total, have announced that schools will be closed at least Monday and Tuesday.

Despite the many branches and even entire trees knocked over by the weight of the snow, the blizzard also produced surreal imagery that entertained many Madrileños, including a few brave skiers and a man on a dog sled who was seen on highways. videos widely distributed on social networks.

Lucía Vallés, coach for a Madrid ski club who usually has to travel to distant mountains with her clients, was delighted to see the white layers of snow literally piling up on her doorstep.

“I never imagined that, it was a gift,” said the 23-year-old. “But I’ve never had so many photographs of myself,” she added, slipping past the late 18th century building that houses the Prado Museum.

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