A British couple travelling in a taxi were among those killed; six remain missing
At least nine people, including a British couple, have died in Mallorca, in Spain’s Balearic Islands, after the island was hit by flash flooding on Tuesday night. It is one of the most serious floods to hit Spain in the past 25 years. Three deaths occurred in S’Illot, one in Artà and four took place in Sant Lorenç des Cardassar, a neighbourhood 60 kilometres from the island capital Palma de Mallorca, according to emergency services. No information has been released about the ninth victim.
More than 230 millimetres of rain fell on the area in just two hours. According to a preliminary report by Spain’s AEMET national weather service, “the probability of 233 millimetres of rain falling in Colònia de Sant Pere [close to Sant Lorenç] in Mallorca, which was recorded yesterday, is one in a thousand years.”
The heavy rainfall flooded the Ses Planes brook, which is typically dry, with water gushing through the historical centre, dragging cars, flooding houses and leaving hundreds of residents trapped in their homes. Many waited to be rescued on balconies and the rooftops of their houses. Three people were injured and another 200 people were forced to flee their homes.
Six people are still missing, including British nationals and residents of Sant Llorenç and Manacor.
According to the Civil Guard, the British couple killed were travelling in a taxi when the water hit. The whereabouts of the driver are unknown. Emergency services say the first recorded death was an elderly man with reduced mobility who was found by a rescue team in the basement of his house. A second person died after getting caught by the flood on the road that connects Canyamel and Artà. Early Wednesday morning, emergency services confirmed two more deaths, a woman who was found in her house in Sant Llorenç and a victim in S’Illot. The last victim has yet to be identified. The former mayor of Artà, Rafael Gili, 71, also drowned in the floods, according to Artà Town Hall.
Dozens of drivers were trapped on the road by the flooding. The heavy rainfall took down a cellphone antenna and various electricity transformers, leaving the area without power and complicating the rescue effort.
Many residents remain in shock. “We were in the car next to the house when we were dragged by the water and the current,” Pedro Femenías, a resident of Sant Llorenç des Cardassar, told EL PAÍS. When he returned to his home, the rooms were completely flooded, tree trunks covered the floor and items of furniture were piled up on top of each other.
“We have no other choice but to try to clean everything up,” said his wife. No one was inside the house and the family said they were grateful no one was hurt, although two of the vehicles were lost to the current.
Resident Tomás Martínez said his ground-floor flat was also ruined by the flood: “The storm destroyed walls, dragged down trees, it’s a disaster.”
“There’s no way of predicting that something like this could happen,” he added. “In the 1980s there was a flood but it wasn’t that serious. Now there are houses that will have to be pulled down completely, people who were saved because someone was able to get them out. It’s very painful that people have died.”
One resident told EL PAÍS how he was able to save his family in time. “I was working in Manacor and my brother, who is in a wheelchair, called to say that water was coming in and that he was with my 93-year-old mother. It took me over an hour to get there but we are fine, thank God.”
According to the authorities in Mallorca, 11 roads on the island remain closed due to the flooding. Emergency services have asked the 8,000 residents of Sant Llorenç to remain in their homes and drive only in the case of emergency. Classes have been suspended in all schools in Sant Llorenç, la Colònia de Sant Pere, Artà and Son Servera.
Catalina Cladera, the regional finance and public administration chief, described the disaster as “devastating.”
“We weren’t expecting it. The weather alert went from yellow to orange in a short time. The brook was in good condition but too much water has fallen in too short a time,” she told the Spanish radio station Cadena SER.
Francina Armengol, the premiere of the regional Balearic government, decreed three days of mourning: “These are moments of immense pain and we need to support the families. Today we will hold an extraordinary government council to decree three days of mourning and ask the central government to declare a disaster zone. Our infinite gratitude goes to the people who are working on the rescue effort.”
Around 400 emergency service members, Civil Guard officers, firemen and local police are working to assess the damage and begin the recovery effort. The regional Balearic government called on the Defense Ministry for extra support last night and at 5 am on Wednesday, 80 military officers and seven emergency military vehicles were sent from Valencia to Palma de Mallorca.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), and the leader of the opposition Popular Party (PP), Pablo Casado, will travel to Mallorca to visit the affected areas.
the Balearic Islands remain on orange alert with more rain expected on Wednesday. AEMET has forecast 40 millimetres of rain for Ibiza and Formentera between 8 am and 6 pm. In Mallorca, 20 millimetres are expected to fall in an hour.
On the mainland, Málaga, Barcelona and Girona are on orange alert for torrential rain, and Tarragona is on yellow