MADRID (AP) — A persistent blizzard blanketed large parts of Spain with an unusual amount of snow, killing at least four people and leaving thousands trapped in cars or at train stations and airports that suspended all services.
The national weather agency reported that as of 7 a.m., the snowfall in Madrid reached a level unseen in half a century. More than 50 centimeters (20 inches) of snow fell in the Spanish capital, according to the weather agency AEMET.
The bodies of a man and woman were recovered by the Andalucía region emergency service after their car was washed away by a flooded river near the town of Fuengirola. The Interior Ministry said a 54-year-old man was also found dead in Madrid under a big pile of snow. A homeless man died of hypothermia in the northern city of Zaragoza, the local police department reported.
More than half of Spain’s provinces remained under severe weather alerts for Storm Filomena on Saturday evening, seven of them at the highest level of warning. In Madrid, authorities activated a red alert for the first time since the system was adopted four decades ago and called in the military to rescue people from vehicles trapped on everything from small roads to the city’s major thoroughfares.
As of Saturday evening, Spanish security services had rescued all the people who were trapped in vehicles -- over 1,500, Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said.
Transport Minster José Luis Ábalos warned that "snow is going to turn into ice and we will enter a situation perhaps more dangerous than what we have at the moment.”
Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas International Airport, the main gateway in and out of Spain, will remain closed at least until Sunday, Ábalos said, after the blizzard bested machines and workers trying to keep the runways clear of snow.
All trains into and out of Madrid, both commuter routes and long-distance passenger trains, as well as railway lines between the south and the northeast of the country, were suspended, railway operator Renfe said.
The storm had caused serious disruptions or closed over 650 roads, according to Spain’s transit authorities, which urged people to stay indoors and avoid all non-essential travel.
More than 100 roads were still impassable almost 24 hours after the storm began dumping snow on the central swathe of the country.