Spanish PM visits flood-hit areas

Madrid (AFP) –


Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday visited the country's flood-stricken southeastern regions, where five people have died and 3,500 forced to flee their homes, as train and air services were disrupted for yet another day.

Since Wednesday, areas here suffered some of the heaviest daily rainfall on record, which caused chaos on the roads, cutting public transport and prompting rivers to burst their banks.

Flash floods swept away cars and swamped homes in the regions of Valencia, Murcia and eastern Andalusia.

Five people died in separate accidents as they tried to cross flooded roads in cars, including a man whose vehicle got stuck in a tunnel on Friday in the centre of the coastal city of Almeria.

After observing the damage from a helicopter flying over the city of Orihuela in the region of Valencia, Sanchez visited a command centre for emergency operations, his office said.

In addition to some 1,500 people who were evacuated earlier, officials on Friday removed another 2,000 residents of the town of Santomera in the region of Murcia as a precaution due to a controlled release from a local dam to avoid overflowing, the interior ministry said.

Spain's King Felipe VI lamented the loss of life and the damage.

"May we all, with the help of all, be able to overcome the despair that now weighs on so many homes and families," he tweeted late on Friday.

The storm moved further west on Saturday, causing a flash flood in the village of Alhaurin el Grande in the province of Malaga that washed away about a dozen cars, local officials said.

The airport in Murcia, which was closed on Friday due to the flooding, re-opened on Saturday, although two flights that were due to land on the holiday island of Ibiza were diverted to another Spanish airport and another two flights were cancelled due to the bad weather, Spanish airports operator AENA said.

Rail services across southeastern Spain remained disrupted on Saturday, with several routes in Valencia and Murcia suspended, state-owned train operator said in a statement.