Geopolitics

Spain’s worst recent snowstorm leaves four dead and cripples much of the country

MADRID (AP) – Rescue workers in central Spain cleared 500 streets and rescued over 1,500 people who were stranded in their vehicles. So Madrid and other areas slowly shoveled out of the worst snowstorm in the country in recent times on Sunday.

After Madrid and much of the country registered 50 centimeters of snow in the Spanish capital between Friday evening and Saturday, they remained impassable on Sunday as roads, rails and air travel were disrupted by Storm Filomena. The blizzard was blamed for four deaths.

Transport Minister José Luis Ábalos said the crews cleared two runways at Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas International Airport on Sunday and resumed departures. Arrivals would slowly start again between Sunday evening and Monday, weather permitting.

Trains crossing the capital gradually came back online on Sunday afternoon, but Ábalos said the important high-speed line between Madrid and Barcelona was still out of service.

More than 150 streets were still impassable on Sunday. Authorities said all car trips should be postponed and tire chains were mandatory for trips that could not be avoided. They said all of the people trapped in their cars by the snow had been rescued, but hundreds of cars would have to be salvaged after they were abandoned by drivers.

The largest snowfall in Madrid since the 1980s has spawned some unusual scenes in which some residents used the sky to speed through the snow-covered streets, according to Mayor José Luís Martínez-Almeida.

Storm Filomena has lost strength as it moved east, but authorities are still urging people to stay home to limit the risk of falls on icy roads if a cold front moves in.

“The danger is not over yet,” said Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Markaska. “There is a week of extreme cold coming, which will turn all the snow on the ground into ice, thus multiplying the risk. The storm brings with it a cold spell that could bring temperatures down to record levels. “

The Spanish weather service predicts that temperatures in the eastern province of Albacete will drop to -14 ° C by Tuesday.

The sparsely populated province of Teruel remained on alert for heavy snowfall, while large areas in Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia were also on alert for wintry weather. According to the regional authorities, in some villages in Catalonia more than 6,000 customers were without electricity.

Army emergency brigades focused on opening access to Madrid’s main fresh food distribution center and hospitals on Sunday as Spain also grappled with its coronavirus crisis and infections increased after the Christmas break.

Grande-Marlaska said the government will take additional steps to ensure the weekly delivery of the Pfizer BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday can be distributed to regional health authorities via police-led convoys.

If Madrid’s airport isn’t ready on time, Grande-Marlaska said a smaller airport in northern Spain could be an alternative to receive the shipment.

“We are having an ongoing discussion to protect the transport to Spain and to correct the storage and subsequent distribution of the vaccine allocation that we will receive tomorrow,” said Grande-Marlaska.

In Spain, more than 51,800 virus deaths have been confirmed in the pandemic.

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Joseph Wilson reported from Barcelona.

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