LISBON, Dec 13 (Reuters) – Heavy rains hit parts of the Iberian Peninsula on Tuesday, flooding roads, washing away cars and forcing Portuguese authorities to close some roads and mobilize the military to support cleanup efforts.
Lisbon’s mayor’s office has issued a “red” warning to the city and urged people to stay at home and avoid traveling to the capital in the Tagus River estuary.
Since midnight, the civil protection authority has reported nearly 1,500 accidents across Portugal, mainly in Lisbon and in the districts of Santarem, Portalegre and Evora, amidst flooded roads, tunnels, train stations and shops.
A spokesman for the military said civil authorities had asked for help to pump water in the flooded areas.
Schools in Oeiras, part of the Lisbon district, have been closed and students have been sent home.
The emergency plan for the Tagus River has been activated, which means that there is a risk that it could overflow.
Rainfall is expected to remain “heavy and persistent” throughout the rest of the day, weather agency IPMA said.
The mayor’s office said on Tuesday that city buses and trams were not operating, the subway was not fully functional and some train stations were inaccessible due to flooding.
Adverse weather conditions also brought the Lisbon metropolitan area to a standstill on Wednesday when one person died in a flooded basement.
Supermarket owner Elia Santos, 33, said water entered her shop in Alges, near Lisbon, last week, but ‘it was worse this time’, estimating she lost at least €6,000 in damage not counting household appliances.
“All is lost,” said Artur Rosa, 57, whose real estate office flooded for the second time in less than a week.
“It’s total destruction: the window is broken, the furniture is all destroyed, all… the documentation we have to keep for 10 years.”
Heavy rains hit other parts of the country on Tuesday, with the IPMA declaring an “orange” weather alert in all but one of the mainland districts.
Neighboring Spain was also affected, with the central-western region of Extremadura placed at the second-highest emergency level. Heavy rain caused a road to collapse and a group of ten people had to be rescued.
Lisbon City Hall has been criticized for failing to build infrastructure to prevent floods over the years. Mayor Carlos Moedas said work to build a 5 km (3 mile) drainage tunnel was expected to begin soon.
“You have to think about the infrastructure – it’s a long-term problem,” said Stefani Nolasco, 23, manager of a flooded restaurant in Alges.
Reportage 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
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