Snowstorm chaos hits Spain, with more forecast

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Madrid (AFP)

A day after snowstorms caused chaos across much of Spain, forecasters warned there was more to come on Saturday as five regions were put on red alert.

Storm Filomena blocked roads, especially in the center of the country, with the capital Madrid recording its heaviest snowfall since 1971.

Madrid Barajas Airport was closed on Friday evening and hundreds of motorists remained stranded.

The meteorological agency AEMET described the situation as “exceptional and probably historic”.

An additional 20 centimeters (nearly eight inches) are expected to fall on Saturday in Madrid and the low plains of central Spain, with up to 50 centimeters at higher altitudes.

“It was a complicated day but tomorrow will be even more difficult,” Madrid mayor José Luis Martinez-Almeida tweeted on Friday in a video just before midnight.

In an update on Saturday, he described the situation as “extremely serious” and advised people not to leave the house.

Authorities suspended bus services and garbage collections in the city after a night in which snow continued to fall steadily.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez also tweeted calling on people to stay indoors and follow emergency services instructions.

Madrid’s emergency agency said it had worked all night to help trapped motorists, freeing 1,000 vehicles. They asked the others still stuck to be patient.

Snowfall disrupted traffic on nearly 400 roads, Renfe transport and rail officials said high-speed trains between Madrid and Valencia have been canceled.

Snow transformed Madrid’s famous Puerta del Sol into a place for winter sports, as skiers – and even a man on a sled pulled by five dogs – made their way to the normally busy thoroughfare.

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

The historic city of Toledo has asked for the military’s help to clean up the streets, as has Albacete in the southeast, state television reported.

Forecasters said heavy snowfall would continue until Sunday, before Storm Filomena began moving northeast, although temperatures would remain unusually low.

Before snowfall began on Thursday morning, temperatures had already dropped to an unofficial record of -34.1 degrees Celsius (-29.38 Fahrenheit) on Wednesday at a ski resort in the central Pyrenees.

Filomena has also brought heavy rains and high winds to the Canary Islands as well as the southern coast of Spain.

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