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EASTER STORM BRINGS RECORD RAINFALL AND CHAOS TO XÀBIA
More than 250 people were evacuated due to flooding caused by intense downpour

Tuesday 23rd April 2019

JAVEA NEWS | EASTER STORM BRINGS RECORD RAINFALL TO XÀBIA

It has been one of the wettest Easter weekends in living memory. In twelve hours over the evening of Easter Sunday and the early hours of Easter Monday, more than 300 litres per square metre of rain fell in several places across Xàbia. Not since the great storm of 1957 has the town suffered such a deluge. The low-lying Arenal zone suffered greatly with extensive flooding in many areas resulting in the evacuation of some 250 people. Roads were closed, either by floodwater or by landslides and wall collapses and more than 100 cars were abandoned, their occupants rescued by the emergency services. As Xàbia begins the clean-up operation, the regional and national administrations have pledged assistance to help the town recover and to be ready to the summer season.

A storm situation had been forecast for some days before the arrival of the busy Easter weekend but there was always some uncertainty as to which areas would be most affected. Nevertheless the Ayuntamiento de Xàbia took the decision to cancel the traditional Easter street market, one of the oldest in the Comunidad Valenciana, as a precaution and other popular holiday events were also put on hold as we all watched the skies.

After a relatively dry start, rain fell on the afternoon of Good Friday, causing the cancellation of the religious procession around the historic centre. Nevertheless many of the bars and restaurants were packed as people seemed determined to enjoy this long holiday weekend. The drizzle continued into Saturday and hopes were raised that the traditional Easter Sunday gathering of the penyas and associations would still take place. But Sunday broke wet with more persistent rain causing the Ayuntamiento to officially cancel the event. But still nothing yet really suggested a storm of such a magnitude was about to arrive.

In the early evening the skies darkened and the low cloud seemed to glow an ominous green; it was only 6pm but the streets of the historic centre were plunged into an uncomfortable gloom, the street lamps not due to switch on for another couple of hours. It started raining a little harder; there was a flash of light and a low rumble of thunder. A storm was rolling in. And then the heavens opened. By this time the state meteorological agency AEMET had issued a red alert; extreme weather was about to strike Xàbia.

The downpour was quite extraordinary. Roads turned into rivers and the drainage system struggled to cope with the intensity. Torrents of water ran down through squares in the historic centre, cascading down steps and steep roads; at least one restaurant battled almost in vain to stop it from flowing inside. In low-lying areas such as the Arenal, the water quickly gathered in giant puddles which soon became huge deep lakes. The emergency services closed the roads as they became impassable.

Holidaymakers based in the Arenal zone were in for a shock. According to newspaper reports, one group of friends in a basement apartment found water running down the steps and flooding their building but when they tried to reach their car to escape to higher ground they found it was already surrounded by flood water. They were rescued by the emergency services and taken to the reception area set up by the volunteers of the Cruz Roja to assist those forced to leave their homes. In another incident, a woman from Alcoy awoke to find her bedroom flooding. When she opened the door to escape, she found that it was holding back a huge amount of water which poured into the room and quickly began to fill it. She managed to escape with the help of a friend who bravely dived into the room to rescue her. Some 250 people in Camping El Naranjal were also evacuated to the reception area as the flood waters rose, some walls collapsed under the sheer weight of water, blocking roads with the debris whilst cars were abandoned in the streets, their occupants rescued by the emergency services, as roads became impassable. The Gorgos river started flowing again as rain falling inland sought a swift return to the sea; this torrent was augmented by water which drained quickly off the slopes of Montgó. In the early hours it was reported that the river was in danger of overflowing near the Pont de Llavador, the old bridge near the desalination plant. It did, but only in the immediate vicinity.

The rain largely stopped during the mid-afternoon of Monday; it had been raining constantly for almost 24 hours although the heaviest rain fell on Sunday evening and by midnight almost 270 litres of rain had fallen on the historic centre, a quantity never before recorded at this time of the year and the highest amount of rainfall since the disastrous storm of 1957 which almost wiped the town off the map. Back then witnesses said that it felt like the sea had lifted into the air and then dropped en masse onto the town. And it seemed so again. Up on Cabo La Nao an British couple endured more than 20 hours on top of their kitchen table as the rain water flooded into their house close to the Granadella green zone. Fire service personnel who had been dispatched to assist had to abandon their rescue after their fire truck hit a submerged vehicle in the road and broke down. The couple were eventually rescued by paddle surfers who used their boards to reach them. They were evacuated to a hotel whist they waited for the waters to drop before starting the clean-up.

On Monday afternoon the clean-up began with fire crews and volunteer groups working to pump water out of basements and underground parking areas as well as clear the roads to re-open them to traffic as soon as possible. Today personnel from TRAGSA have been deployed by the Valencian Security Agency with powerful pumps to assist.

In the aftermath both provincial and regional government have pledged to help with the recovery of the town. Mayor José Chulvi has met with the Director-General of Emergencies at the Generalitat Valenciana José María Ángel as well as the Deputy-Leader of the Provincia de Alicante María Araceli Poblador in order to determine the best way forward and there will be a council meeting this week which will be looking to agree a request for aid to help the recovery of the town. Poblador pledged that the provincial government will do all it can to help Xàbia return to normal and be ready for the summer season.

On Tuesday morning Xàbia was visited by Pedro Duque, Minister for Science, Innovation and Universities, who wanted to see first-hand the aftermath of the storm to assess how the government in Madrid can assist; the former astronaut has a holiday home in the town and was appointed as “adopted son” of Xàbia in 1999. Finally mayor José Chulvi announced that special desks will be enabled in the OAC Citizen’s Assistance Office at Portal del Clot to address queries and process those people who need assistance.

The mayor also thanked all the emergency services for ensuring that the people of Xàbia as well as those who were visiting the town remained as safe as possible during this event; the officers of the Policía Local and Guardia Civil, the professional fire crews as well as the volunteers from the Cruz Roja, Protección Civil and ISVH Balcón al Mar who gave up their own time to help others.





 

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