Why is nobody talking about the Spanish floods?

Dolores, Catral, San Fulgencio. These are just some of the areas that have been flooded in southern Spain in recent weeks, yet nobody knows about it. The areas that are most affected may not be well known to many, but what if I told you that all these areas are just over an hour away from Benidorm. And I know that Benidorm is a place you’ve definitely heard of.

Like many other people I had no idea what was happening but when I found out it scared me. My grandmother Nadine Scott and some of my friends live in these areas and I became worried when I couldn’t contact them. No texts, no calls nothing and I knew something wasn’t right.

Image courtesy of Aimee Knight

Finally, after a few days of worrying, we had a phone call from my Nan. The storms had cut off her electricity and her Wifi and the whole of her urbanisation had been marooned as an island because of the flood water. To say we were relieved that she was okay is an understatement. But then a question crossed my mind, why didn’t we see anything on the news? If it wasn’t for my Nan and my friends living there, I would never have known.

We found out that the Spanish Met office gave a red alert issue a few days before the storm, which is a rare occurrence in Spain. The first lot of rain, on Thursday the 12th of September, lasted two to three hours and lightning lit up the streets in the middle of the nights. Multiple schools shut down and a tornado happened at five in the morning. They had seven years’ worth of rain in just three days. Hard to imagine this happening in Spain isn’t it? All this going on in mid-September whilst British tourists soak up the Spanish sun just an hour away in Benidorm.

I travelled over to Spain to visit my Nan and to see for myself the damage these floods had caused. Local farm lands were destroyed, 751 animals were found drowned in Dolores alone, seven people died, over 4,000 people were evacuated (150 in San Fulgencio close to my Nan) and eventually the military had to get involved to help with the relief effort after people were stranded in their homes. Debris wrecked local areas and covered the streets. Flights were diverted from Alicante airport because it wasn’t safe enough and beaches were closed down due to contaminated water because of all the dead animals. A disaster this big and yet the majority of the British media did not report on it.

During my time there, in urbanisation La Marina, I paid a visit to their tourist office and spoke with local councillor Darren Parmenter. I wanted some cold hard facts about the flooding so I could write this article and hopefully try and raise some awareness in the UK about what had been going on.

Upon meeting Darren and discussing the storm, I quickly realised the severity of it. “My 85-year-old mother said the only way she could describe the lightning was that it was like the blitz”. That statement alone says it all.

“This office was closed but I was in contact with the other councillor Samantha (Hull Gallon) and she was saying it’s not looking good down in San Fulgencio Village; we’re probably going to have to evacuate a lot of people” Darren tells me. “The evacuated people were taken to a school, but then there was the issue that they needed food and water. Luckily, we had a call from one of the bars on the urbanisation, the Final Whistle Sports bar and they offered their services as a food bank”.

This phone call was the starting point of what was to become a massive community effort to help the victims of the flood, a community effort that Darren explains is what he thought would’ve gotten the attention of the UK press.

“The police at the time couldn’t get to us so people volunteered, risking their own lives to get food to us” Darren explains “There was such a tremendous community spirit, I expected more coverage of the aftermath, the humanitarian effort is something I would’ve thought they should’ve been interested in”.  ‘They’ being the UK media.

A total of 80 people was relocated on the urb and with the new temporary food bank operating actively, they now needed mattresses for flood victims to sleep on until they could return home. After another Facebook appeal, 48 mattresses were obtained.

A month on from the storm, and Spain is slowly recovering from the devastation. Many have volunteered to help the police and military in the relief effort. “Everyone has said how wonderful the emergency services have been, there hasn’t been a single complaint about how they operated and their professionalism” Darren states. Throughout this interview, he continues to praise the emergency services as well as the numerous volunteers.

Even though all but three families have been able to return to their homes, the people are still recovering. 100% of the crops of the Vega Baja area, one of the worst affected areas, were lost. 500 million euros worth of business has been lost.  In Orihuela alone, around 80% of the businesses were affected. This figure still continues to increase. Things are that serious that the Spanish president and the Spanish King and Queen have visited the city of Orihuela. Orihuela is just an hour and nine minutes away from Benidorm.

“People see a dark cloud and start to panic; they don’t want to see rain ever again”.

To close the interview, I ask Darren in all his years of living in Spain, has he ever seen anything like it? He answers “Never”.

So, if you’re planning a holiday or a weekend away in Benidorm for October half term holidays, spare a thought for the people who live just over an hour away. People who have lost their homes, all of their belongings and for some unfortunate people, they’ve lost loved ones. Everybody associates Spain with the sea, sun and relaxation, but even in Spain, real disasters can happen.

11 thoughts on “Why is nobody talking about the Spanish floods?

    1. Thank you for pointing this out, I know there was coverage on the floods but I did say in the article that the majority of the UK media did not report on it, I never said it wasn’t covered at all. I decided to cover smaller areas that were affected, areas that are not mentioned in as much detail in the above articles and having spoken to a number of British people living in Spain, they felt there hadn’t been enough coverage.

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    2. The phrase is “….why didn’t we see anything on the news?” and as someone that follows the UK TV news channels from Spain very closely, I concur with Laura’s observations.

      As the Councillor who she interviewed for this excellent blog, I can confirm that I received many ‘complaints’ from people who were “disgusted” at the lack of TELEVISION news coverage. I was later aware that there was indeed a live report from Ontinyente around 8 am on the Friday morning but was probably on too early for many. In the immediate three or four days following the storms, the only coverage I saw was 30 seconds on ITV news on the Sunday evening after the Spanish Prime Minister visited devastated Orihuela; and that was it.

      I agree with many people who said that if a similar tragedy had happened somewhere in Asia or Africa, it would’ve been given greater coverage and could have expected the major TV news channels to send a live reporter from the scene; even more so in this case as British citizens were both affected and were heavily involved in the subsequent rescue and humanitarian efforts.

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  1. Do a story on the rescues and bravery…

    We are in Dolores and we have not yet got back into our house…..yet the voluntary efforts should be highlighted more..

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  2. The storms were the worst, in the area for over 100 years we were told. They hit the Mediterranean coast from Valencia down to Murcia and several miles inland. The sea rushed in and water ran at speed up the roads flooding the whole area and sweeping vehicles away, ending with some landing on top of others. Rain on the mountains created waterfalls not seen in over forty years. This created fast flowing water that covered the lower areas at the base of the mountains and then joined up with already swollen rivers which burst their banks and flooded fields and towns. People in San Fulgencio and Dolores where it is low lying were badly hit. This area of the Vega Baja is a major crop growing area and all the fields were waterlogged and the crops ruined. Many people who work in the fields lived in poor housing in this area and much of it either collapsed from the pressure of the water or the walls of the houses have bowed so badly many will need to be demolished, These people now have no homes and no prospect of work for several months at least until the water subsides and the fields can be assessed and prepared for planting. In the first few days the Police and then the army helped to rescue people in difficult circumstances. Roads were under water and vehicles were not allowed to travel in affected areas until the call went out for owners of 4 x 4 vehicles to help in rescue and recovery. This was challenging as roads were still under water and the edges of the road unclear and more than one vehicle ended up off the road slipping down a steep bank and needing help to be pulled back onto the road again. Given the large UK population in this area it was surprising that more news of this devastating event wasn’t shared on the British media. Some of the homeless were given temporary accommodation in the school in San Fulgencio but were moved to a Catholic Church in La Marina when the school was due to open for lessons. The homeless people were still housed in the church when we were in La Marina last week. For many the storm and floods were a scary time with some short term issues such as loss of electricity, WiFi and perhaps damp and mouldy walls etc. as well as diminishing supplies of food and drink but as the sun began to shine again after three days of heavy rain life slowly began to get back to normal with supermarkets, some awash with water during the flood, slowly got back on their feet clearing all signs of the storm and re-stocking shelves to meet the needs of their community. However, for some the horror goes on as they remain homeless with all their furniture and belongings swept away and an uncertain future ahead as winter approaches. Please don’t forget them and try to help them get through this awful time. Thank you
    A regular visitor to La Marina

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      1. This has happened in many areas of Spain this year in particular, but every year, fire & floods devastate areas. I live just inland from marbella & we have had two huge deluges of rain, which caused catastrophic damage to the area, especially to those living around the dry river beds. People lost their homes, animals & livelihoods.

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  3. Volunteers are still very busy trying to help evacuees return to their homes. One particular Spanish couple in their 80s. He suffers with dementia and cries daily for his Casa – where he was born!!! He desperately wants to return to end his years in the house he was born in. They have lost everything!! We have received kind donations of furniture, but there house needs rewiring & plastering in many places. We are currently appealing for help from local tradesmen. It is extremely sad to see them witness the devastation when we take them to visit their casa which was under 7 feet of contaminated water!!

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