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

Finding Mallorca’s “loneliest area”

The best-known walks and hikes on Mallorca are in the Serra de Tramuntana, but you don’t have to head to the magnificent mountains to enjoy great views and decent walks.

This morning began very windy but mild. The thermometer in the shade on the terrace was already registering 18 degrees C before breakfast, so we decided to brave the hoolie that was blowing and check out a walk we’d read about in a book I bought recently in Palma.

As we parked the car on the side of a quiet country road, near the small town of Sant Llorenç, the sun was shining out of a bright blue sky. It looked perfect, but for the trees waving from side to side like a swinging pendulum. I figured the few extra pounds gained over Christmas (which this year’s walking effort has not yet shifted) would act as a kind of ballast and stop me flying off like an umbrella-less Mary Poppins.

Old stone drinking troughs - a marker for the route

Old stone drinking troughs – a marker for the route

Our walk to the Muntanya de Calicant started on a dirt track leading up to a manor house with old stone drinking troughs beside it. Despite the fierce wind, a bonfire was burning in the garden – with nobody in sight anywhere it.

After a while we crossed a dried-up river bed and then began the more challenging part of the walk, as the path up to the Calicant mountain is pretty indistinct in places and, at times, we were pushing our way through long, almost pampas-like grass, to follow the path. It’s a really stony route and I recommend using walking poles. Actually, a machete for all the vegetation obscuring the route would have been useful…

Bucolic beauty

Bucolic beauty

Cairns to mark the route are not always obvious in such stony surroundings

Cairns to mark the route are not always obvious in such stony surroundings

The nearby mountain known as Es Telegraf

The nearby mountain known as Es Telegraf

Gone were the blue skies...

Gone were the blue skies…

"Humans! Didn't they see the weather forecast?"

“Humans! Didn’t they see the weather forecast?”

Our goal was the top of the Calicant mountain, from which we had read that the Bay of Alcúdia is visible, but we didn’t make it today. What had started as a beautiful spring-like (albeit very windy) day had turned into one threatening rain. Shortly after we reluctantly turned back – to avoid getting soaked – the rain began to fall.

Our book describes this as “one of the loneliest areas on the island” and we didn’t see any other people for the duration of the walk. They probably all have a better weather-forecasting app than we do…

©Jan Edwards 2017

Fiestas galore on Mallorca … except in the countryside

Fiesta bunting

Bunting time!

Living in the open countryside, we are in a fiesta-free zone. But in villages and towns all around Mallorca, July and August are the months to deck the streets with fluttery bunting, get out the stacks of ubiquitous white plastic chairs, and party hard. The locals either join in or get out of town (or the village) for the duration. We can choose which ones we want to attend.

The main components of these fiestas are usually music (local bands or DJs), food (anything from giant ensaïmadas and enormous paellas, to tapas or street food, served from vintage food trucks), and drink.

Party time in Sant Llorenç

On Friday night we attended a fiesta in the small town of Sant Llorenç, combining all three: the Sant Llorenç Boscana Craft Beer and Swing Festival. It was held in the square by the distinctive town hall building, one side of which was lined with stalls  offering around 20 different beers (no, we didn’t try them all).

Boscana Cervesa Evolutiva

Beer, anyone?

DSC_0627

This was only the second edition of this particular festival. Apparently some lessons were learnt after last year’s inaugural event. One, was to bring in a refrigerated truck to keep the beer cold. The second was to provide some food to soak up the alcohol. On the opposite side of the square some local eateries and a bakery had set up stalls selling a few snacks, and someone known as Kitchen Guerilla was rustling up some sausages on a BBQ.

Strike up the band

Five swing bands were on the billing and an enormous professional-looking stage was set for the live music. Until the first band – Long Time No Swing – came on stage, we were treated to a performance by a strolling local pipe-and-drum group (xeremiers) and then a local batucada band.

Traditional Mallorcan music

Traditional Mallorcan music

The latter is a popular (and incredibly noisy) feature of many local fiestas. The drummers process through the streets followed by crowds of people – a bit like the Piper of Hamelin, but thankfully without the rats.

Eventually the stage came alive with the music of the first of five bands scheduled to play. We stayed to see Long Time No Swing and Monkey Doo – both terrific. When we left for home (around midnight), there were still three bands due to perform. Nessun dorma in Sant Llorenç that night!

Long Time No Swing

Long Time No Swing

Swing band Long Time No Swing

Long Time No Swing

Monkey Doo

Monkey Doo

Monkey Doo

Monkey Doo

Lindy Hoppers are Sant Llorenç

What most impressed us about this night was the dancing. Dozens of couples took to the centre of the square to dance the Lindy Hop, and they seemed to know what they were doing. Unlike most dancing, this one seems to be done in sneakers – so no twisted ankles due to perilous platforms or soaring stilettos. What struck us – apart from the ability of so many locals actually to do the Lindy Hop – was the joyful nature of this dance. We couldn’t stop smiling as we watched.

Lindy Hoppers

… and Lindy Hop

At some point we spoke to a girl who was taking a break from the energetic dance and she told us there’s a popular Lindy Hop class run in the town in the cooler months. Ah, that would explain it. This time next year, The Boss and I could be Lindy Hopping ourselves. Just need to persuade him. And buy some sneakers.

And so to bed …

Unlike the good citizens of Sant Llorenç, we were able to leave the noise behind and go home for a peaceful night’s sleep. That’s country living on Mallorca for you …

By the way, if you love Lindy Hop, the Mallorca Lindy Festival takes place in Inca, at Fàbrica Ramis, from October 7th-9th.

If you’re thinking about a visit to Mallorca next August, keep an eye on the Boscana Cervesa Evolutiva Facebook page for the dates of the 2017 festival.