LISBON, Dec 13 (Reuters) – Heavy rain battered parts of the Iberian peninsula on Tuesday, flooding streets, sweeping away cars and forcing authorities in Portugal to close some roads and mobilise the armed forces to support clean up efforts.
The Lisbon mayor’s office put the city on a “red” warning and urged people to stay home and avoid commuting to the capital in the estuary of the Tagus River.
Since midnight, the Civil Protection Authority has reported nearly 1,500 incidents across Portugal, mainly in Lisbon and the districts of Santarem, Portalegre and Evora, including flooded streets, tunnels, train stations and shops.
A spokesperson for the armed forces said civil authorities had asked for help to pump out water in flooded areas.
Schools in Oeiras, part of the Lisbon district, shut and students were sent home.
The emergency plan for the Tagus River has been activated, meaning there is a risk it could overflow.
Weather agency IPMA said rainfall was likely to remain “strong and persistent” throughout the rest of the day.
The mayor’s office said earlier on Tuesday city buses and trams were not operating, the metro was not fully functioning and some train stations were inaccessible due to flooding.
Adverse weather conditions also brought Lisbon’s metropolitan area to a standstill last Wednesday, when one person died in a flooded basement.
Supermarket owner Elia Santos, 33, said water had entered her store in Alges, near Lisbon, last week but “this time was worse”, estimating she might have lost at least 6,000 euros in damages without counting the electrical appliances.
“Everything is lost,” said Artur Rosa, 57, whose real estate office flooded for a second time in less than a week.
“It is total destruction – the window is broken, the furniture is all destroyed, all … the documentation we have to keep for 10 years.”
Heavy rain hit other parts of the country on Tuesday, with IPMA declaring an “orange” weather alert in all but one of the mainland districts.
Neighbouring Spain was also affected, with the central-western region of Extremadura put on the second highest level of emergency. Heavy rain caused a road to collapse and a group of ten people had to be rescued.
Lisbon’s city hall has been criticised for failing over the years to build infrastructure to prevent flooding. Mayor Carlos Moedas said work to build a 5-km (3-mile) drainage tunnel should start soon.
“You have to think about the infrastructure – it’s a long-term issue,” said Stefani Nolasco, 23, a manager at a flooded restaurant in Alges.
Reporting by Pedro Nunes, Sergio Goncalves, Catarina Demony and Patricia Vicente Rua in Lisbon; Additional reporting by Emma Gonzalez in Madrid; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Janet Lawrence
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Portugal-based multimedia correspondent reporting on politics, economics, the environment and daily news. Previous experience in local journalism in the UK., co-founded a project telling the stories of Portuguese-speakers living in London, and edited a youth-led news site.