Five regions in Spain were put on red alert on Saturday, as winter storm Filomena caused chaos across the country.
The country’s capital Madrid was particularly affected, prompting the closure of Barajas airport and leaving hundreds of motorists stranded on roads.
Spain’s AEMET weather agency described the weather emergency as “exceptional and most likely historic.” Filomena has so far caused the heaviest snowfalls in Madrid since 1971.
But more is expected, as another 20 centimeters (nearly eight inches) was forecast to fall Saturday in Madrid and central Spain’s lower plains.
“It’s been a complicated day, but tomorrow is going to be even more difficult,” Madrid Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida said on Friday, describing the situation in the city as “extremely serious” and urging residents to not to leave their homes.
Madrid’s emergencies agency said they had worked all night on Friday to help trapped motorists, freeing 1,000 vehicles. High-speed rail services to and from Madrid have been suspended, newspaper El Pais reported.
Two deaths have been reported from the powerful storm, though neither of the fatalities took take place in Madrid.
A couple died after they were trapped in their car when a river burst its banks near Malaga, southern Spain, while a homeless person froze to death in the eastern city of Calatayud, authorities said.
Nine regions in the country have been put under the highest level of alert, including Castilla-La Mancha, Catalonia, Valencia and Aragon. Some 20 centimeters of snow is expected to be dumped on these regions on Saturday.
Nineteen other provinces are also under winter weather warning. A total of 36 of Spain’s 50 provinces will be affected in some way or another by Filomena.
In Toledo, a historic city of 85,000 south of Madrid and capital of the central Castilla La Mancha region, authorities had to seek help from the army to clear roads.
A record temperature of -35.6 degrees Celsius (-32 degrees Fahrenheit) was recorded at Vega de Lourdes in Leon, northern Spain, AEMET said.
Meanwhile in the southern Canary Islands, rainfall and strong winds have paired with unusually rough seas with giant waves, leading emergency services to rescue 65 people from a ferry that ran aground while trying to approach a dock in the Gran Canaria island.
jcg/aw (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)
Storm Filomena blankets Spain with snow and wreaks havoc The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Deutsche Welle.