Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sending out an SOS

We have experienced very heavy and persistent rain recently. Initially, it was the western part of Asturias where the heavy rain fall concentrated,causing some localised floods and land slides with temporary disruptions in some of the roads and the railway line.
On Wednesday the rivers burst their banks, including the river Sella that passes through our municipal district, it coincided with a particularly high tide resulting in major floods and disruption. We promptly responded to an SOS call from some friends who live in the town of Arriondas which has since been declared a "natural disaster zone". They live in a fourth floor apartment next to the river and had to evacuate it when the water got up to 1 m high in their lobby and they lost the power and water supplies. Unfortunately, their car was in a two storey underground car park and they were unable to get to it in time. In spite of three of the 4 roads from our home to Arriondas being blocked by overflowing rivers or land slides, we eventually managed to collected them and trace our steps back before the road we were travelling was also closed to traffic as there was a danger of the bridge being washed away. It was very disheartening to see so many homes, business and meadows flooded by water with very big trees uprooted and floating away. We went for a walk later on in the afternoon to the beautiful beach in Ribadesella to discover it covered with lots of debris and that the sea was full of brown murky water.
Their home remained without water for 5 days and they eventually managed to get their insurance company to tow the car out of the garage and away to be assessed, it is expected to be a total write off. It took the best part of three days to pump out the basement garages and store rooms. Everything has been penetrated by a fine silt-like mud, diesel and sewage.

It was devastating to see many people disposing of many of their damaged belongings some of which will never be replaced such as photographs and books. The local hospital, health centre and schools are some of the buildings worst affected by the flood and it will be a while before they are fully operational again. We hear that 7 people lost their lives (not confirmed)along with the loss of much livestock. Many homes, business and local services have been badly affected.
Many of the local business had just stocked up in readiness for the beginning of the tourist season in the very near future.
In spite of all the damage, it has been encouraging to see a community coming together to help and support each other in such times.
We have recently learnt that during the past few decades many buildings have been built on the natural flood plains - not a good plan with or without changing weather patterns.
The clean-up begins:

Natural disasters are always unpredictable, all we can do is look to the future, try to rebuild our lives and hope that if there are lessons to be learnt we do not miss that opportunity. Let us hope the future is bright. Fortunately, we live above the flood plains but only 47m above sea level so if sea levels do rise dramatically in the near future.....

A short news item on the flooding: click here

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