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

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MADRID (Reuters) – Three people have died in Spain as Storm Filomena caused chaos on travel across the country, covering Madrid with the heaviest snowfall in decades and troops mobilized to rescue 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 down the road or bombard themselves with snowballs.

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

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”.

Schools and universities were closed until Wednesday, Madrid regional authorities said.

Aena AENA.MC, which controls the country’s airports, said Madrid Barajas Airport, which was closed Friday evening, would remain closed for the rest of Saturday. He said at least 50 flights to Madrid, Malaga, Tenerife and Ceuta, a Spanish territory in North Africa, had 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.

Madrid and four other regions were on red alert on Saturday as heavy snowfall was forecast, according to the National Meteorological Agency (Aemet).

Reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by Frances Kerry

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