December storms caused chaos in Alicante Province and the Murcia region over the weekend, with rainfall exceeding the total level accumulated for the whole of 2016. Blocked roads, fallen trees, and concern over the level of the river Segura were amongst the main issues, and in the northern part of Alicante Province, a man, aged in his sixties (pictured), drowned in Finestrat, after he was swept away by the floods.

He was trying to reach his car near the beach area in the Cala de Finestrat, despite neighbours shouting at him to get back indoors. Guardia Civil officers were called out on Saturday morning and sent out a search party, including scrambling a helicopter, before finding the victim’s body 20 minutes later in a cove. The incident was similar to that of a British couple that were swept away by flood water in the same area over five years ago.

A Benidorm camping site also had to be evacuated, whilst over 30 people had to be rescued in the Murcia region, mainly trapped motorists, or residents in the village of Torreagüera threatened by a potential rockslide. Meanwhile, Guardia officers helped a women give birth at her Mazarrón area home on Sunday as flooding meant that she and her husband could not get to hospital in Cartagena. Doctors on the end of a phone line talked them through making what was a safe delivery.   

Authorities made a plea for people to avoid using secondary roads, with many blocked due to flooding and fallen trees in Alicante Province and the Mar Menor. Problems though extended to key highways, with the AP-7 and N-332 blocked at Pilar de la Horadada. A car was caught in flooding on the N-332 at La Mata in Torrevieja, whilst an ornamental pergola was blown over the Paseo de La Mata close to a kiosk. A driver was rescued from a flooded car in the Almoradi area whilst a street lamp collapsed at Los Locos in Torrevieja, with gusts of over 80 kilometres an hour being recorded in the early hours of Sunday morning, with trees and advertising hoardings being blown down across the region. Murcia emergency services said that over 350 people were rescued from their vehicles and homes, mainly in Los Alcazares, Murcia City, San Javier and Torre Pacheco, with key roads flooded across the Mar Menor municipalities. Flights to San Javier on Sunday and Monday, including four services from the UK, had to be diverted to Alicante-Elche airport.. 

The rise in the river Segura led to authorities issuing flood warnings in Orihuela city, with the highest levels recorded since the Segura burst its banks in 1987, with some minor flooding causing some residents in the Mariano Cases area of the city to be evacuated. Ten residents were also evacuated from Calle Ramón Rubia in the El Paraíso area of Torrevieja due to flooding, with some of them staying in the Hotel Cabo Cervera or with friends or relatives. Around 150 people in the Los Alcázares municipality were also taken to a centre at Los Narejos.

Many beaches were battered including Babylon beach in Guardamar, with buildings being hit by waves, and beaches on the Orihuela Costa, Pilar de la Horadada and Mar Menor areas were also affected by the storms. The underpass link to Playa Flamenca by the Town Hall was flooded, and there were many rockslides on the Orihuela Costa beaches, with the rambla at Campoamor also affected. Streets were flooded next to Lo Pagan beach in San Pedro del Pinatar, and further north, beaches were ravaged at Pinet and Arenales in the Elche municipality, coupled with concerns over the safety of the Arenales de Sol hotel building, where development on the hotel’s revamp was suspended earlier in the year in a row over the project.

Schools in 71 municipalities in Alicante Province and the Murcia region were closed on Monday, with bus services also being suspended, along with court proceedings in Orihuela and Torrevieja. Countless festive events were postponed last weekend or cancelled altogether, along with many sports fixtures, as the weather eventually relented on Monday, with the welcome return of sunshine.

Despite people being taken by surprise with the intensity of the weekend’s storms, weather expert Jorge Olcina from Alicante University’s climatology department told the Información newspaper that it was not a unique phenomenon. “They were more common in the seventies and eighties”, said Olcina, “and were known as December constant rain. It’s not untypical of the Mediterranean climate where you can get barely get any rain all year long, and then you can get the full annual average coming down in just a few weeks”.

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