Latest Severe Weather News for the Mediterranean

29th September – Spanish floods leave ’10 dead’

Southern Spain’s deadly flash floods have now claimed 10 victims. Torrential rain swept through the southern Spanish regions of Andalucia and Murcia on Friday, washing away cars and forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate their homes.

Among the dead are two children who were found drowned in a car in Puerto Lumbreras in Murcia, and an elderly man who was found dead near the town’s cemetery.

26th August – Spanish countryside ravaged by wildfires

Two wildfires in southern Spain forced the evacuation of around 1,000 residents, making this the worst summer in a decade for countryside devoured by flames, authorities said.

A fire started near Bedar, 85 kilometres north of Almeria, where residents spent the night in a sports centre, regional officials said. Another fire was being brought under control late Sunday near the Mediterranean beach resort of Estepona, about 35 kilometres west of Marbella.

This year, Spain has lost 149,300 hectares of forest and countryside in more than 11,650 wildfires, compared to around 107,000 hectares for the whole of 2002, according to official statistics.

Seven people, three firefighters and four civilians, have died as a result of wildfires during the year, and parts of Spain’s most precious forests have been burned. Among areas charred is the Garajonay National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site located in La Gomera in the Canary Islands.

Diana Colomina of the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund said experts has estimated it would take the 800 hectares of Garajonay that had burned at least 150 years to recover.

Colomina said experts had also calculated it will cost Spain about $562.8 million to recover the woodland and other landscapes lost, a sum that did not include the compensation that needs to be paid to residents who lost homes or businesses in the conflagrations.

Very low rainfall and searing summer temperatures have made much of Spain tinder dry in recent months, conditions that have coincided with harsh spending cutbacks by both regional and central governments.

23rd July – Four killed as fires rage out of control in Spain

Hundreds of firefighters backed by water-bombing planes battled a wind-fuelled wildfire in northeast Spain that killed four people including a teenage girl. Another 23 people were injured, including eight who remained in hospital, the Catalan regional government said on Monday.

About 1,300 people were battling the blaze, including 500 Spanish and 450 French firefighters plus military personnel, police and volunteers, backed by 33 planes and helicopters, said Catalonia region interior minister Felip Puig.

The fire remained out of control, he told reporters on Monday evening, but “the outlook is encouraging” because the wind had dropped and the temperature in the area was expected to do the same.

Puig said the fire had likely been caused by a cigarette butt or small explosive device that caught fire due to “recklessness or negligence”.

Among the victims, were a Frenchman and his 15-year-old daughter who died on Sunday after abandoning their car and throwing themselves off a cliff into the sea to escape the approaching flames near the town of Portbou.

“From where they jumped you would have to project yourself about one metre to reach the sea. They probably did not jump far enough and they hit the rocks below,” said Portbou mayor Jose Luis Salas-Mallol. The man’s wife and their two other children were injured and taken to hospital.

A 75-year-old Spanish man died of a heart attack as he watched his house burn and a 64-year-old Frenchman died in hospital from burns suffered when his car was engulfed in flames, authorities said.

About 100 other people who also abandoned their cars on the same stretch of road walked down a steep hillside to the beach, witnesses said. Many suffered injuries ranging from burns to broken bones.

The wildfire broke out on Sunday near the town of La Jonquera and spread quickly across the Alt Emporda region near the French border, fueled by winds of up to 90km an hour. By Monday it had covered some 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres), authorities said. The smoke reached as far as Barcelona, some 150km away.

Firefighters ordered thousands of residents in 17 towns, including La Jonquera and Figueres, to remain indoors with their windows and doors shut because of the threat from the smoke and flames.Hundreds of people spent the night in emergency shelters set up in the region, mostly in the town of Figueres, about 20km south of La Jonquera.

Officials on Monday reopened a key highway linking Figueres to the French city of Perpignan. The road had been shut twice since the wildfire began on Sunday. A high-speed rail link between Spain and France was also reopened.

Spain is at higher risk of forest fires than ever this summer after suffering its driest winter in 70 years. The country’s biggest fire so far this year ravaged 50,000 hectares in the eastern region of Valencia this month.

29th June 2012 – Spain forest fire displaces 700 people

A forest fire in eastern Spain forced 700 people to evacuate their homes and indirectly caused a brief power cut at a nuclear plant, authorities said. The fire had burned 10 square kilometres of land in the Valencia region, the regional government said in a statement.

“This is one of the (region’s) biggest fires in recent years,” regional president Alberto Fabra said in the statement, after visiting the affected area. The weather conditions are adverse, with high temperatures, little moisture and lots of wind.”

An electrical plant was evacuated in Cortes de Palla and the resulting loss of current forced a nuclear plant in nearby Cofrentes to briefly switch to generator power before normal functioning resumed, a spokesman for the region said, adding the plant is not in any danger. The fire was started by an act of negligence during the installation of solar panels in a home, the regional government said.

Since Thursday, about 700 people had been evacuated from Dos Aguas and other surrounding villages and were being housed by local families or in shelters, the spokesman said. Around 1,000 emergency personnel were working to fight the blaze, along with 28 helicopters and airplanes.

“The number of hectares burnt is more than 1,000 and all the work is focusing on preventing the fire from spreading and on channelling it towards an area where it is easier to extinguish,” the government statement said.

It was the latest in a series of bush fires around Spain this year, which have followed one of the dryest winters for decades.

12th June 2012 – Rare Venice tornado causes havoc

A rare tornado (or waterspout, when over water) swept over several islands (Lido, Sant’Elena and Sant’Erasmo) off Venice’s lagoon causing damage but no injuries according to reports.

The Epoch Times reports: The tornado left in its wake churned up boats, fallen trees, and about a dozen homes roofless on Sant’Erasmus Island…

The Italy Chronicles notes: A water bus ticket office had its roof ripped off by the tornado which some reports stated was a waterspout. A number of boats were capsized.

CRI adds: Some 15 children who were attending a sailing course in the Venice lagoon were rescued by police after they trapped in the container in which they had taken refuge, according to Corriere della Sera newspaper.

13th May 2012 – Two British tourists die in heat wave

Two British tourists have died while hiking Gran Canaria as the island was in the grip of a heat wave. At least six others “suffered health problems”. The two victims, in their 70s, died in separate incidents Sunday as temperatures soared to at least 40 C. The others that suffered health problems were in their 60s, and were among a party of hikers that included one of the deceased. Weather warnings for the heat, attributed to hot air from Africa, had been issued by Canaries authorities. Data also showed temperatures to at least 37 C, on the Canaries, where high temperatures near 25 C would be more typical.

18th April 2012 – Freak windstorm blasts Turkey’s largest city

A severe spring storm has unleashed damaging winds in western Turkey and Greece. At least one person died in western Turkey and two others were injured in Istanbul. Trees were toppled and roofs torn off. Boats were capsized at Bodrum. High winds and clouds of dust disrupted flights in the capital, Ankara. At Khania, in western Crete, midday gusts reached 107 km/h. Meanwhile, the high winds spread eastward over mainland Turkey on Wednesday. The international airport of Istanbul clocked winds of 105 km/h. The unusually powerful storm instigating the high winds was centered over the northern Aegean Sea on Wednesday, having earlier crossed the mainland of Greece with widespread rain and strong winds.

23rd February 2012 – Several reported dead as floods ravage northwest Tunisia

At least two people are confirmed dead and one has been reported missing in a major flooding emergency that swept the north-western region of Tunisia.

A car carrying three people was swept away in heavy flooding and two from the car were confirmed killed in Boulifa, seven kilometres from Kef, according to the Tunisian state news agency TAP.

Heavy rainfalls, combined with the runoff from recent snowfalls have led to landslides and the inundation of several towns and villages.

Flood alerts have been issued, and the Tunisian army is evacuating residents living in the Kef, Jendouba, Bizerte and Beja Governorates, an area spanning the entirety of Tunisia’s northwest region.
7th February 2012 – Rare snowfall in Libya

Snow has blanketed parts of Libya, including the town of Gharyan which is southwest of the capital Tripoli. Up to 3 inches of snow fell in 24 hours. The last time it snowed here was in 1956 as snowfall is a rare occurrence in the country.

6th February 2012 – Rare snowfall in Algiers

Snow made a rare appearance in Algiers, the capital city of Algeria. Cold air associated with a storm system diving into northern Africa provided for some decent accumulations of snow in the north African country. Reports say the last time Algiers saw this kind of accumulation was in 2005.

3rd February 2012 – Rare snowfall in Rome

Frigid air gripping Europe has set the stage for rare snowfall in Rome. One of the major European cities up next to see snow is London. Snow began mixing with rain in Rome during the early morning hours of Friday. Steadier snow followed during the midday and afternoon hours, especially across northern areas. The heavy rate of the snowfall held visibility at or below a half of a mile throughout much of the afternoon hours at the Urbe Airport on the city’s north-eastern side. Snow is definitely rare in Rome, where afternoon high temperatures typically warm to 12C at this time of year.
2nd February 2012 – Cold kills in Italy

In north and central Italy, hundreds were trapped overnight on trains as freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls caused widespread transport chaos. The cold has so far killed an infant in Sicily, a 76-year-old in Parma and a homeless man in Milan during what forecasters say is the coldest weather in Italy in 27 years.