One dead, five missing as northeast Spain hit by flash floods

Cars are seen in flooded village of Arbeca, Spain October 22, 2019. — David Bernat/social media video image via Reuters
Cars are seen in flooded village of Arbeca, Spain October 22, 2019. — David Bernat/social media video image via Reuters

BARCELONA, Oct 24 — One man died and another five people were missing yesterday after a night of torrential rain triggered flash flooding in northeastern Spain, cutting off roads and disrupting air travel, officials said.

Police said they found a man's body late on Tuesday on the beach in Caldes d'Estrac, some 40 kilometres north of Barcelona, while further south, rescuers were engaged in the hunt for five other people, all of whom disappeared in a badly-hit area inland from the coastal city of Tarragona.

Aerial footage from the affected zone, which lies about 30 kilometres north of Tarragona, showed villages swamped by floodwaters and mud, with trees and even bridges swept away by the force of the water.

During the evening, regional police confirmed they were looking for a Belgian lorry driver whose empty vehicle had been found in the Francoli river, after earlier saying they were also hunting for two people, reportedly a woman and her adult son whose prefab home was swept away by floodwaters in Vilaverd.

They were also looking for another two people whose empty car was found near l'Espluga de Francoli in the same area.

Flooding and landslides forced the closure of nearly 50 roads and halted train services in the region, as well as forcing the diversion of 37 flights, most of them in Palma on the holiday island of Mallorca, regional transport authorities said.

And nearly 25,000 homes across the region were left without power due to the high winds and heavy rain, although by mid-afternoon that number had fallen to 10,000, officials said.

As rescuers in Catalonia continued the search for those reported missing inland from the coastal city of Tarragona, the stormy weather shifted towards the Cantabria region on Spain's northern coast, forecasters said.

The heavy rainfall also battered southern France, where roads were flooded, train services interrupted, and people evacuated from their homes.

In the southwestern Beziers region, two metres of water fell in less than six hours — the equivalent of two-and-a-half months worth of rain, Meteo France said, warning that gale-force winds raised the possibility of high waves swamping parts of the coastline.

The bad weather also shut down the rail lines from Montpelier and Toulouse in southern France and from Montpelier across the border into Spain, until at least November 4, French rail operator SNCF announced.

Passengers who have bought tickets for journeys no longer available will be reimbursed within 60 days, SNCF added.

In September, seven people died in storms and flooding following days of record rainfall in southeastern Spain.

Last year, intense rain in Mallorca caused the deaths of 13 people as rivers burst their banks, flooding streets and sweeping away cars. — AFP

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