Four dead in the Spanish storm, troops deployed to help motorists stranded by snow

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MADRID (Reuters) – Four people have died in Spain as Storm Filomena caused chaos on travel across the country, covering Madrid with the heaviest snowfall in decades and forcing authorities to mobilize troops to rescue them. trapped motorists.

Rescue services reached 1,500 people trapped in cars as skiers slipped down Gran Via, normally one of the busiest streets in the capital. Other Madrid residents took advantage of the blizzard to snowboard the road or bombard themselves with snowballs.

A man and a woman traveling in a car drowned after a river burst its banks near Malaga in southern Spain and two homeless people froze to death, one in Madrid and the other in the eastern town of Calatayud, authorities said.

Responding to the events, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia tweeted: “The Royal Family would like to express their sorrow for the victims of the storm … and call for extreme caution against the risk of ice and snow build-up.”

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska urged Spaniards to avoid all travel except essential ones. “We are facing the most intense storm in the past 50 years,” he said.

More than 650 roads have been blocked by snow, Grande-Marlaska said, leaving some drivers stranded in their cars from Friday night to Saturday.

Patricia Manzanares, stuck in her car on the M-40 motorway in Madrid since 7 pm Friday, told RTVE television: “I am stuck here without water or any other help”.

Aena, which controls the country’s airports, said Madrid Barajas Airport, which was closed Friday evening, will remain closed for the remainder of Saturday. He said at least 50 flights to Madrid, Malaga, Tenerife and Ceuta, a Spanish territory in North Africa, have been canceled.

The National Meteorological Agency said it was the heaviest snowfall in Madrid since 1971, while José Miguel Viñas, a meteorologist with Spain’s National Radio, said between 25 cm and 50 cm (10-20 inches) had fallen in the capital, which he said. made it the biggest snowfall since 1963.

Atletico Madrid’s match against Athletic Bilbao, which was scheduled to start at 3:15 p.m. GMT on Saturday, has been postponed, La Liga said in a statement.

Reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by Frances Kerry and David Holmes

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