Madrid, Jan 10 (efe-epa).- The region of Madrid woke up on Sunday morning under a blanket of snow after a historic blizzard struck the capital and surrounding areas, bringing road and rail traffic to a standstill as well as shutting the international Barajas airport.
Storm Filomena has been blamed for the deaths of two people whose vehicle got swept up by a stream in Malaga in the south of the country, while investigations were ongoing into the death of a man who was found buried in the snow in Zarzalejo, a village in the hills northwest of the capital city.
Since Friday, well over half a meter of snow has been dumped on the region, the country’s most populous.
Spain’s interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said Saturday the country had not faced such a situation in 50 years.
The operator of Spain’s airports (AENA) said Saturday that flights in and out of Adolfo Suarez Madrid Barajas airport would be suspended until at least Sunday afternoon, when flights might be able to start resuming “gradually”, depending on the weather situation.
The Madrid metro was the only mode of transport that was unaffected by Filomena. Regional train services to the city’s outskirts were cancelled until midday, while city and regional buses were also suspended.
There are no longer any drivers stranded in their vehicles on the region’s motorways, but half a million people had to spend the night in municipal shelters as they were unable to return home after being rescued from their cars.
Authorities have asked Madrid’s residents to avoid travel unless absolutely necessary to allow city and Community workers as well as Military Emergencies Unit troops to clear the snow so that it doesn’t freeze and allow daily activities to resume as soon as possible.
The priority is to restore road access to hospitals and reopen the region’s main motorways and major city streets.
The army has been brought in to help with the transfer of patients to several hospitals in the Community of Madrid with eight basic life support and advanced life support medical transports, in collaboration with the emergency and health services of the Community of Madrid.
Since Friday, when the storm first began dumping unprecedented amounts of snow, 30 percent of the salt that is used “in a normal year” across the country to thaw frozen roads has been spread in the Madrid region. EFE-EPA