The angels of mud who fight on for victims of Spain’s killer floods
As residents in the Vega Baja area of Alicante are told they can finally make a claim over the devastating storms damage, the consumerwatchfoundation.com looks at the efforts of ex-pats and Spaniards alike to rescue people, animals and homes.
The storms – described as the worst for 140 years – plagued a huge part of the mainland. They also hit Mallorca and Ibiza.
Now, weeks after the horror, the Comunitat Valenciana has finally approved a fund of €13.5 million to pay out emergency claims of up to €4,500.
Sadly, though there are many who can’t be helped.
In the latest tragedy to be reported, a Dutch man was killed by a torrent in Alicante – earlier a 41-year-old man in the town of Orihuela died after the river Segura overflowed its banks
The first two reported victims were actually a brother and sister in Albacete whose vehicle was washed away and overturned.
Another man drowned after he drove into a tunnel in Almería closed due to flooding. Later that day another man lost his life in a ravine in Baza, Granada and another man died in Redovan.
Almost 4000 people have been evacuated from their homes devastated by debris and mud carried by the floods coming down from nearby mountains as rivers burst their banks.
Many of the victims have little hope of returning in the foreseeable future and already wrangles over insurance claims have reportedly started.
The Spanish Insurance Consortium expects around $224 million worth of property and auto insurance claims, while the Spanish agricultural insurance association expects $93 million in claims.
But armies of volunteers are doing everything to help them.
One ex-pat couple who lost their home in south-east Spain say they have been “humbled” by the response.
The home of Richard and Liesl Cavender, originally from Northamptonshire, collapsed on Sunday, but they have been put up by people they hardly knew.
“I had no idea until now people cared that much about us,” said Mr Cavender.
As the battle goes on, one volunteer sent this report to the consumerwatchfoundation.com, revealing how people have got together in the face of hardship. It is a moving and powerfully positive story told in her own words:
Allyssa Voets, a mother of one from Torreveija, who helped organise Rescue Angels Vega Baja, said: “On Saturday the 14th Lina, Edvard and Johan decided to go to Dolores to help a friend in need at El Hondo Range after the floods from Thursday and Friday left her houses, stables and plot completely filled with water.
Reaching to the access roads there were several police officers from the Policia Local Dolores and San Fulgencio saying they couldn’t reach the farm as the water level was rising very fast and if they could please help evacuate the people still left in the village to higher grounds.
In that moment we started to work as a team, myself translating for them to the police officers and they were driving several times from Dolores and surrounded areas to the San Fulgencio school.
That moment we decided we should do more to help the people as many aid was needed and government was responding very, very slow.
It was than I called to my friends in Los Alcázares to check on them, they immediately send me the contact details of the Volunteers in charge there: Fran at the help centre and Daniel Morga Santiago (who is affected by the floods badly himself and puts helping others on the first place) at the aid recollection and distribution point.
It was devastating to hear their stories and how little response they got from the government. I told them not to worry, that we would do what we could to get aid there as soon as possible.
I contacted my dear friend Maria from “Med Invest” if we could use here place as a donation point for aid from the community and she said YES without hesitation!
Than I called my best friend Gabriella from “Mamma Mía” in Caboroig if she could take in donations in the evenings, as Med Invest would only open till 2pm and she was more than willing to help too!
Next “The View” in Campoamor came to my mind and they wanted to help in any way possible as well. Edvard spoke to Damon from Nomad Supermarket in Torrevieja and they jumped into action as well! It was such a good feeling that people without hesitation jumped in to help all these people affected!
The first hours we all posted on our personal Facebook that we needed help from the community and where they could leave the donations and shared this to all the groups we were member of, with the result that the same day people started leaving things at the drop-off points.
On that same night, after another day from Edvard and Johan helping evacuate people from the flooded areas with their 4×4’s, we went down to Los Alcázares, a level 0 area (worst affected area) to bring the people who lost everything at least nappies, clean clothes and something to sleep on.
For me this was the moment I decided we couldn’t stop helping, as there was so much need and so little donations getting where they were needed. The day after, Sunday the 15th, the response from the people was overwhelming!
Heartbreaking and Heartwarming at the same time! We did not expect this much response to our call for help. We needed to organise better and bigger we noticed and called help from more friends to volunteer us.
The response was YES from everyone! Igor Tupis with his van, Mats from Scandinavian House Care, Derek and Claudio from Tick Tock Removers jumped into action collecting mattresses at peoples houses and brought them directly to the Help Centres in San Fulgencio, Dolores, Almoradí, Redovan and Los Alcázares.
We tried to do as much as we could ourselves with the 4×4’s we had available from Maria, Edvard, Johan and some good friends we had and others we made along the way. This was the beginning of our group: Rescue Angels Vega Baja. Lisa and Izobell joined us to help organize things with Facebook, Instagram and Facebook donations, more donations coming in through a Swedish Swish account (this is a way of paying with your phone specially for Swedish) and a personal Fund page, they contacted several big Real Estates in the area and even the Swedish Consulate got involved.
We have been working like this, while doing our day-to-day-jobs, for over a week now and it is devastating to see how the towns affected have no protocols for this kind of disasters and don’t know how to organise themselves. Many responded very badly to our request of collaborating where others were so happy with our help. The Local Police from the towns mentioned above, have called us several times to help or ask for aid.”
The worst of the weather has passed, returning to hot and sunny conditions in most places.
However parts of the Costa Blanca remain in ruin, with roads blocked, and the rescue and clean-up operation remains in full swing.
Nicola Cross, aged 41, from Wythenshawe moved to Orihuela Costa with husband Mike, aged 46, from Denton, and daughter Holly, now 12, in 2012.
She said: “It’s just been absolutely awful. We have known some torrential rain but nothing like this.
“We have been very lucky as our home hasn’t been affected but in areas just ten minutes away it’s been total devastation
“There the situation is definitely still critical.
“One of our friends in Almoradi has also had his home completely washed away.
“Roads are impassable, farmers are desperately trying to get their livestock out of fields.
“The emergency services have been great they are out there doing all they can and the army are helping as well.”
The Foreign Office (FCO) issued a warning to British travellers last week which said there was an “extreme risk” to those visiting the affected areas.
That advice has now been downgraded but they said: “The extreme weather alert issued by Spain’s meteorological office (AEMET) has now been lifted.
“Damage caused by flash flooding continues to affect some areas in the south of the Alicante and Murcia regions, causing some disruption to local transport and secondary road closures. If you are in these areas you should follow the advice of the local authorities.”