Devastating floods in Mallorca

Post updated Thursday, October 11th

Our beloved adopted island of Mallorca is in mourning. Twelve people are now known to have died as a result of flooding in the east and northeast area of Mallorca, known as the Llevant. A five-year-old boy (whose mother died) is still missing. Amongst those who lost their lives – in what must have been terrifying circumstances – were two British tourists, who died in a taxi. Today they were named as Delia and Anthony Green, aged in their 70s, who were on their way to their hotel in Cala Bona.

October usually brings a few storms – often heavy – but Tuesday’s was something else. We had torrential rain, thunder, and scary sheet-and-fork lightning for several hours. Remembering a previous storm that disabled our solar electricity system inverter at great expense, The Boss switched off all related equipment and we sat by candlelight for a while, reading from our Kindles, and listening to the rain – thankful to be indoors.

A disaster in the making

At about six o’clock on Tuesday, October 9th, the banks of the Ses Planes torrente in the nearby town of Sant Llorenç (population just over 8,000) burst under the weight of water: 257 litres of rain per square metre fell on the town. Water and mud surged through Sant Llorenç, inundating some properties to the depth of an average adult’s shoulder height and sweeping away vehicles in the streets as though they were bath toys. The town also lost electricity and phone connections during the storm.

We didn’t realise what was going on outside our valley until we switched our power back on and were able to access the Internet again. The photos and video footage we saw from Sant Llorenç were shocking and, frankly, unbelievable. The storm has been described in the local and international media as ‘biblical’ – such is the devastation.

Many people sought shelter on the rooftops of their homes or in trees; once rescued, they were taken to shelter in the Miguel Angel Nadal sports centre in Manacor. Tennis star Rafa Nadal also provided accommodation at his famous Tennis Academy. It will be some time before many of the locals can return to their homes.

Other Mallorcan towns also affected

Sant Llorenç was by far the worst-affected part of the region, but Artà, Son Carrió, and the east-coast resort of S’Illot also suffered flooding and three of the deaths were in Artà and S’Illot. Cars were swept into the sea in Colonia de Sant Pere (one of our favourite coastal places in Mallorca).

Today, several major roads remain closed. Just outside Artà – on the highway towards Ca’n Picafort – part of the road has been washed away, leaving an enormous hole that makes the route impassable. The scale of this disaster is hard to take in; it’s the worst in Mallorca for 29 years and the third major flood in the Llevant area in the past 100 years.

The town and its environs are littered with wrecked cars and other debris – piled up in places. Although the floodwater has receded, it has left behind a thick layer of mud.

On Wednesday morning, 80 officers and seven vehicles from Spain’s Military Emergencies Unit (UME, Unidad Militar de Emergencias) arrived on the island to join local emergency services and the Civil Protection Unit to help search for missing people and collaborate with what will be a massive and complicated clear-up operation.

By yesterday lunchtime the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, had flown to Mallorca and was in Sant Llorenç to see the devastation for himself.

A British crew from ITV arrived yesterday to film in Sant Llorenç, so UK readers of this blog may see the latest horrendous footage for themselves. Because Mallorca is a popular holiday destination with Brits, this story has been well covered in the UK media and we had calls, messages, and emails throughout the day from friends and family in the UK checking that we are OK. I have also done UK radio phone interviews about the flooding on LBC, BBC WM, and BBC Berkshire, and one on a Tenerife radio station.

Tomorrow, Friday – the start of the holiday known as Puente de Pilar – King Felipe VI and Doña Letizia are visiting the town of Sant Llorenç to meet those affected.

If you believe in God, please say a prayer for all those whose lives have been affected by this terrible flooding. Mallorca is in mourning – and will never forget October 9th, 2018.

ENDS

©JanEdwards 2018

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Snow on Mallorca? It happens…

Snow on Majorcan mountains

Snow caps on the Tramuntana mountains, seen from our valley

For many who know Mallorca only as a hot summer-holiday destination, it may come as a shock to know that our beautiful island experiences some rather wintry weather at times. Back in February 2012, The Boss’s cousin and his wife came to the island for a walking holiday. Except that when they opened the door of their holiday accommodation one morning, a drift of snow awaited them. It’s not been that bad since (yet).

February is usually the coldest and dampest month and, for the past week, it’s been pretty miserable, with constant grey skies and rain in our part of Mallorca. We do need the rain, of course, to replenish the embalses – water reservoirs – for the long dry summers.

The annual Carnival celebrations were due to happen in Manacor last evening, but the powers-that-be decided to postpone the event because of the weather: yesterday was damp, dreary, and 4 degrees Celsius (although it felt colder in the wind). We think it’s the first time the event has been postponed since we’ve lived here. Carnival celebrations in Manacor will now take place this evening. What a difference a day makes. Today, the sky has been blue and the sun has shone. But, as the afternoon has progressed, there’s been a renewed sharpness to the breeze.

What to wear for Carnival

We usually dress up in ordinary warm clothes for this event but, last year, we took the plunge and went in costume – dressed in cowboy (and cowgirl) gear, along with our Dutch friends Sandra and Adriaan. We had a really fun night and I don’t recall it being particularly cold (although a glass or two of wine during the evening may have served as central heating).

Carnival in Manacor is always fun but, in costume terms, it’s not Rio. Far too cold for skimpy outfits in February! For anyone planning to dress up this evening, the ideal outfit would be a furry gorilla costume. Now, where can The Boss and I source a couple of those on a Sunday afternoon, I wonder?

©Jan Edwards 2018

 

Mallorca takes an autumn battering

It’s been very windy here in the northeast of Mallorca for a couple of days and, being a north wind, it’s felt pretty cold too. Our finca is particularly exposed, being at one end of a valley, and we brace ourselves for the inevitable arrival of these gusty autumn days as best we can. Most of our outdoor furniture is now put away in our annexe guest room (which becomes a storage space in winter, when anyone sleeping in there would surely expire from hypothermia).

Broken terracotta pot

New pot required

When we ventured outside yesterday morning to feed the cats (who become super-skittish when it’s windy), evidence of the gusty night was all around. (Have you noticed that the wind always blows hard the day after you’ve swept the terraces?). One of the casualties this time was a fairly large shrub I planted during the summer – in a decent-sized pot (weighted down with heavy stones under the soil).  The pot is no more.

It never fails to amaze me that the wind brings over large heavy pots, yet the lighter potted plants sitting along a small wall remain unaffected by the gusts. Ah, well, the mysteries of life in the Mallorcan countryside…

©Jan Edwards 2017

How we remove condensation from our windows in Mallorca

The Boss’s eldest son was over for a couple of days at the weekend. The weather continued warm and sunny on Saturday and we took a long walk around Porto Colom harbour (one of Mallorca’s highlights) towards the lighthouse. We didn’t expect to find either of the two small beach bars along the route still open in early November but the first one we came to was doing a decent trade. A few people were on the beach or even in the sea. Who’d have believed it? We grabbed some beers and soaked up the sunshine for a while.

Chiringuito Porto Colom

Open for business – even in November

Beach scene, Porto Colom

On the beach – November 4th, 2017

Hello again, condensation

It all changed on Sunday, with heavy rain and cooler temperatures arriving during that day. Overnight temperatures have been a lot lower since and that means we find condensation running down the inside of all our thin-glass windows in the mornings. Just looking at them makes us feel colder…

Last year – tired of wiping away all the moisture with a cloth every morning – we bought a Kärcher window cleaner. It sucks the condensation away from all the windows and it’s job done in a matter of minutes. And it’s surprising how much water ends up in the built-in collection bottle. No more soggy cloths, thank goodness.

Like our wood-burning stove and dehumidifier, this nifty little hand-held gadget helps to make indoor life in an old stone Mallorcan house a little more comfortable during the cooler months.

Kaercher window cleaner

Condensation blitzed with this handy hand-held tool

Snow?

The first few days of November were unusually warm, but it’s back to normality now. I’ve just read in the Diario de Mallorca that some snow is forecast to fall tomorrow in parts of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains (at 1,300m above sea level). This isn’t unusual for November and that frosting on the top of the highest peaks is what usually reminds me I should be starting the process of making a Christmas cake!

Although the sun is shining as I write this and the temperature is 18 degrees C in the shade, the north and northeast of Mallorca has a warning for heavy rain this evening from six o’clock, with up to 20 litres per square metre forecast to fall in an hour. I think our outdoor cats will be having an early dinner tonight…

©Jan Edwards 2017

Winter drawers on!

The Spanish meteorological office AEMET is forecasting strong winds, low temperatures, and snow for Mallorca over the coming days, for areas as low as 300 metres above sea level. That means that even parts of the capital Palma could see some of the white stuff. Apparently Mallorca is suffering the coldest January since 2005; we remember that one well (and not with fondness): it was our first winter here – and we had a leaky roof without insulation and no central heating.

On many winter days the temperature is comfortable enough to have our coffee and/or lunch outdoors on our most-sheltered terrace, basking in the warmth (sometimes even heat) of the winter sunshine. Our cats also like to feel the sun’s rays and take advantage of any warm places to snooze. Best not tell them what’s in store for the coming days.

Snoozing cats

Room for three cats only in this particular sunny spot

The Boss has just returned from the wood supplier we use in Porreres with a fresh load of logs for the woodburner, so we’re well prepared on the heating front. And we’ve just received a goodie-packed food parcel from our lovely Oxfordshire friends Kristina and Duncan – who visit us every year from the UK.

Fortnum & Mason goodies

Fortnum & Mason comes to rural Mallorca

No, they weren’t expecting us to be snowed in and unable to go out and buy any food; our box of Fortnum & Mason gourmet treats was their generous Christmas gift, which was somehow delayed in transit. If, by any chance, we do become snowed in, we won’t be going hungry…

©Jan Edwards 2017

Season of mellow fruitfulness on Mallorca

Autumn arrived very suddenly this year on Mallorca. On the day the season officially changed, it was as though someone had flicked a switch and disconnected summer. It was off with the shorts and on with the jeans. We’re not really complaining because autumn has so far brought a decent amount of rainfall – something desperately needed on the island.

Within a few days of rain falling (at times, hammering down), our garden was re-invigorated: plants that had seemed on the verge of death perked up and sprouted new growth, autumn crocus popped up around the base of the birdbath, and flowers have bloomed again. What had recently been a parched rock-solid patch of garden is now lush with the dreaded heart-shaped weeds that return every year. After more than a decade of painstakingly digging them out individually, with a view to killing them off forever, I raise my hands in defeat, flying a white hanky on the handle of the garden trowel: “Enough!” The weeds are green. It’s the colour of a garden.

Not quite winter, not quite spring

This time of year is called ‘winter-spring’ by the locals and there are clear similarities to the official springtime. New growth, plenty of lambs frolicking around in the fields, and chirpy birdsong surround us. The big difference is that winter, rather than the warmer summer months, is to follow. The Boss is already making preparations to ensure we’ll be warm and draught free indoors.

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The damp weather also brings mushrooms and toadstools. We find plenty on our land but, being nervous about identification of these various fungi, wouldn’t dream of eating any. But don’t they make great subjects for photos …

 

 

 

 

Shady experiences in rural Mallorca – part 2

Parasol or gazebo? We needed some shade from the sun on our rural Mallorcan finca terraces, but the parasols we’d had in the past hadn’t proved man enough to withstand the odd tornado or unexpected strong gusts that occasionally rip through our valley.

Finca Son Jorbo

Pretty gazebo on the terrace of Finca Jorbo’s Rosa apartment.

Gazebo then. We saw quite a few variations on the gazebo theme. Some were very attractive – like this one at Finca Son Jorbo in Porreres, where we recently stayed for a night’s B&B (much-needed respite after visitors). But none looked as though they’d survive on any of our exposed terraces.

The sunshade solution for us

In 2011, we found just the thing in Palma’s Leroy Merlin, one of those large out-of-town stores that we’re not that keen on, but sometimes resort to when all else local fails. Although the store didn’t have anything sturdy on display or in stock, by chance we spotted just the thing in a Leroy Merlin catalogue that was on display. It was billed as a Pergola Tenerife and had to be bolted to the ground. Well, that had to be strong, didn’t it?

We ordered our first one (for our small back terrace, most battered by the wind) and waited for Leroy Merlin to order and deliver it. It arrived in two huge packages: one for the framework, the other containing the actual canopy part. Did I mention how heavy the frame was? Being early in the season (we were planning ahead for the summer), there were no strong part-time neighbours around in their holiday homes to lend The Boss a hand. I ate a huge plate of spinach for breakfast, flexed my biceps, and went to his aid.

Erecting the thing was an interesting experience. Once The Boss had bolted the two side columns onto the terrace tiles, the heavy top bar had to be hoisted up and fixed across the top of them. Ladders (wobbly, one at each end), language (fruity), and luck (we didn’t drop it) were all part of the process. It was hard work, but worth it. So much so, we bought another one for the front terrace the following year and put ourselves through the whole process again.

The winds won …

Although the metal frame has (so far) proved invincible, the fabric coverings themselves had become very tatty by the end of last year; yes, the strong winds again. This spring we found a local company to make some stronger (we hope) replacement toldos. It took weeks to get a quote for the work and several more for the new ones to be manufactured and installed, but they finally arrived … after our first two lots of visitors had been and gone home again.

Installing the new covers

Installing the new covers

It’s been 35 degrees in the shade today. Phew. Perhaps what we should have bought was one of those canopies (seen on a few cafe terraces) incorporating a system that regularly squirts a fine cool mist over those beneath it. Having spent a small fortune on two new toldos, we’ll have to be satisfied with a session with the garden hose …

Terrace pergola

Shade at last …