Climate Change

Drought to deluge: Heavy rain causes flash flooding across southern Spain

Rains still continue; this spring had been Spain’s driest on record through May 21

By Nandita Banerji
Published: Thursday 25 May 2023
Murcia President Fernando Lopez Miras taking stock of the situation. Photo: @LopezMirasF / Twitter

Torrential rains have swept over the coastal southeast of Spain following a long drought. The much-needed rain came faster than the cities could handle, reported news agency Anadolu Agency.

Rivers broke their banks following rains that began May 22, 2023, while flash floods cut off roads, entered homes and seriously damaged crops, the report added. Education in Alicante and Murcia cities was disrupted as more than 40 municipalities cancelled classes.

The largest storm tank in the Region of Murcia is already operating at full capacity in Torre Pacheco. During the last hours, it has received 40,000 cubic metres of water, preventing it from entering the Mar Menor, tweeted the water and sanitation department for Murcia. Murcia President Fernando Lopez Miras took stock of the situation. 

Aielo de Malferit municipality in Valencia province broke its single-day rainfall record on May 24, 2023. The municipality recorded 117.6 litres while the rains continued in the region, claimed meteorological website Meteo Aielo

The heaviest rains in the morning of May 24 were concentrated between the Coast, the Canal de Navarrés and the Vall d'Albaida, tweeted Spanish meteorological association Avamet.

Spain is one of several countries this year that was facing extreme dry conditions and suddenly faced flash floods after torrential rain. 

Through March this year, Somalia was one of the countries in the Horn of Africa that entered the sixth consecutive wet season with no rain. However, around May 14, riverine floods in the country killed over 20 people.

Heavy rains also wreaked havoc in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. Twenty-one rivers swelled over their banks following rains that began May 2, leading to deaths of at least 13 people and forcing the evacuation of thousands. 

In Spain, almost 400,000 inhabitants have been affected by the closures, which have also included municipal sports facilities, public parks and gardens, reported Spanish news website, The Local

Almeria saw its single rainiest day on record on May 22, according to Spain’s official meteorological agency, Aemet. Almeria usually sees just 12 litres of rain for all of May, but Monday alone, the airport station witnessed 56 litres.

Emergency services battled to drain heavily inundated streets in Cartagena city, reported news agency Reuters. Local television footage showed water almost completely covering parked cars and motorbikes. 

Through May 21, this spring had been Spain’s driest on record. April was also the driest and hottest since record-keeping began. Spain’s Environment Ministry said reservoir levels had even decreased nationally in the last week to 47.7 per cent of capacity — 21 percentage points below the 10-year average for this time of year.

Nationwide precipitation between October 2022 and May 21 of this year was 28 per cent lower than the average for the period, Reuters reported AEMET spokesperson. The rains could help mitigate the prolonged drought afflicting Spain. 

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