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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Mallorca for dogs (and their owners)

If you live on the island of Mallorca and own a dog – or are thinking about acquiring one – a website founded by Christina Kastin – should be of interest to you.

Christina is from Sweden and she loves dogs…and Mallorca. She’s spent the past decade lobbying local councils here to make the island more pet friendly. As a result: people can now take their dogs onto certain beaches during the winter season; six designated areas have been earmarked for dogs to swim at any time of the year, and seven bus routes in Palma will take your pooch as a passenger.

Pet-friendly places

Christina’s website guide4dogs has full details of the above, as well as information about pet-friendly hotels and restaurants. In addition, there seems to be just about everything you could need to know about matters canine on the island.

In the northeast of Mallorca, the town of Artà has been working to make their municipality a more pet-friendly place and, in collaboration with Artà town council, Christina organized a dog walk from the nearby small resort of Colònia de Sant Pere last Saturday. This is one of my favourite places on Mallorca at any time of the year; if you haven’t watched the sun setting behind the Tramuntana mountains across the Bay of Alcúdia on a summer night, you’ve missed one of Mallorca’s best sunset spots.

I was one of the invited journalists and, despite not owning a dog (what would the eight cats think!), joined a friendly group of people and pooches who met up at Restaurante Es Mollet (find it on Facebook). Participants had come from all over Mallorca for this walk and several admitted that they didn’t really know this area of the island.

We began the morning with a complimentary breakfast of coffee, juice, and croissant or pa amb oli (the popular bread and oil snack, accompanied by pickles and ham or cheese).  Meanwhile, we watched an interesting presentation via Skype by the Swedish animal communicator Mia Mattsson.

Two representatives from Artà town hall welcomed us and provided informative leaflets (in English) about walking and sightseeing in the area, as well as a DVD. (See notes below for useful web links).

Walkies!

From Es Mollet we set off for a long stretch of virgin beach, adjacent to the dog-friendly Naturplaya Hotel (which has an enviable beachfront location but had closed for the winter).

Once we’d hit the sands, leads were off and the dogs were free to enjoy themselves – bounding around, pouncing on the water as it lapped on the shore, and sniffing out new canine friends. Although we have cats at home, I also love dogs and it was heartwarming to see them having such fun.

Although the day was initially cloudy, the temperature was a pleasant 21°C and, by the time the group had stopped for refreshments, the sun was breaking through for our return walk to Colònia de Sant Pere.

The day was a great success and another beach walk for dogs and their owners may take place early in 2018. Don’t miss out: like and follow the Facebook page guide4dogs.com and you’ll keep up to date with what’s happening. And do check out the web links below to find out why the Artà municipality is one of Mallorca’s gems.

 

Useful websites

Artà Business Association (includes details of events happening)

Artà visitor information

DogsForU – mainly German Shepherds and other large breeds. DogsForU is just one of the many animal refuges and shelters on Mallorca, where you’ll find animals that need a good home and some loving care.

Text & photos ©Jan Edwards 2017

Happy New Year from rural Mallorca

Christmas bauble

Our artificial Christmas tree spruced up for the festivities.

When we were planning to move to Mallorca we decided to buy a good-quality artificial Christmas tree in the UK for future use. We were pretty sure that finding a real Christmas tree for our rural Balearic island home would be as unlikely as winning El Gordo (‘the fat one’) – the hugely popular Spanish lottery draw that takes place each year on December 22nd.

We’ve still not won El Gordo (perhaps buying a ticket would help?), but only a few years passed before real Christmas trees started to appear for sale in garden centres and plant shops on Mallorca. They’re not as popular as they are in the UK – where we used to queue in the grounds of Blenheim Palace to choose and buy our tree. But, for the record – if you are planning to move to Mallorca (or spend Christmas in a holiday home here), you’re sure to find a real tree to decorate.

Without a real or artificial tree, all it takes is some imagination (and a bit of time) to come up with an alternative. Yesterday, in the hilltop town of Artà, we spotted a clever Christmas-tree-shaped decoration made from wooden coat hangers, decorated with bright baubles, in the window of a boutique.

But my favourite Christmas-tree-that’s-not-a-tree was this one – seen in a baker’s shop window in the same town. I give you . . . the ensaïmada tree.  The ensaïmada is the emblematic pastry of Mallorca – so what could be more appropriate?

Ensaimada Christmas tree

A tree with a difference!

My next post will be in 2016, so The Boss and I take this opportunity now to wish you a Happy New Year. Thank you for reading Living in Rural Mallorca during 2015!

 

 

Of birds and beasts in Mallorca’s spring

Living in rural Mallorca and no longer having to commute into a city for work has given us more time and appreciation for the nature that surrounds us. We’re more aware of seasonal changes – and have become just a teeny bit obsessed about noting the ‘firsts’ of each season.

It’s been a good week for ‘firsts’. We went for a walk on Sunday and retraced some of our earlier steps on the Via Verde (or Via Verda as it’s known locally). This ‘green way’ is one of Spain’s network of eco-paths – conversions of disused railway line routes – and connects Manacor with the small town of Artà, in the northeast of Mallorca.

These feet were made for walking

The path opened without a great deal of fanfare in October 2014 and we began 2015 by resolving to walk the full length of some 29 km – in stages – during January. A spell of bad weather meant we didn’t finish until mid-February. But, hey ho, we did it.

Spring wildflowers on Via Verde, Mallorca

Wildflowers in abundance on the Via Verde, near Son Carrio.

Poppies on the Via Verde

Poppies on the Via Verde

The path looked very different on Sunday, with so much greenery around and swathes of wildflowers lining the route. Our latest walk gave us some ornithological sightings that were our ‘firsts’ of the season: a swallow (yes, this early) and a bee-eater.

In the past couple of days we have also seen our first tortoise of the spring, ambling through the undergrowth in an untamed part (one of many) of our land. It was Pip – the newest addition to our family of adopted felines – who discovered the creature, alerted by the rustling sounds from the foliage it was navigating its way through. A tortoise was clearly ‘the very first’ for this relentlessly inquisitive little cat, and she wasn’t quite sure what to make of it!

Tortie kitten in window

Inquisitive Pip seems to have heard something interesting . . .

Mediterranean tortoise, Mallorca

An early outing for this Mediterranean tortoise

The sighting was good news. Our area is a natural habitat for the Mediterranean tortoise and we’re always pleased to see them surviving. No doubt there will be coin-sized babies soon, which means we have to tread carefully when we’re out on the land.

A cyclist’s surprise

First-time visitors are always surprised to see tortoises roaming freely around. Last autumn we heard a shout from the other side of our gates and opened them to find an English Lycra-clad cyclist with a concerned expression on his face.

“Have you lost a pet tortoise?” he asked, in a broad Mancunian accent, pointing back up the lane. “Only I’ve just seen one up there.”

We explained that the creature he’d seen was a wild Mediterranean tortoise and that sightings were quite common; he beamed in surprise. It reminded us – for the zillionth time – how much we enjoy living  in the Mallorcan countryside, in the midst of nature.

Our next seasonal ‘first’? Who knows? But you can be sure we’ll be as thrilled as we are every season . . .

Read more about the ‘Via Verde’ here in my article recently published in abcMallorca magazine’s spring edition, and online:

http://www.abc-mallorca.com/via-verde/