“My local mountain hotel is to be renamed Harbour Lights and have Jacques Cousteau-themed rooms!”

LAST UPDATED: 5 Mar, 2016 @ 18:42
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Flooding in Jimera de Libar. Photo: Karl Smallman
Flooding in Jimera de Libar. Photo: Karl Smallman

IT has only been a couple of weeks since the festive spirit was suddenly washed away when the River Guadiaro, near my home in Ronda, spectacularly burst its banks prompting the mayors of Jimera de Libar and Cortes de la Frontera to declare their towns disaster areas.

The noise of the raging torrent that swept through the area over Christmas was soon replaced by the cheery banter of the locals as they set about the business of repair.

Dozens of volunteers and firemen joined them to remove ruined, sopping wet furniture, domestic appliances and personal effects into skips, that are now piled high.

Residents and hotel owners, whose properties stand near the normally gentle flowing river, spent much of the festive period shovelling thick brown sludge out through broken doors and smashed windows.

Dozens of volunteers and firemen joined them to remove ruined, sopping wet furniture, domestic appliances and personal effects into skips, that are now piled high.

But rather than crumbling into depression by the worst flooding recorded in the Guadiaro Valley for over 50 years, the locals have embraced a heartening community spirit.

It was Christmas Eve when a loudspeaker announcement in Jimera called for volunteers to help with the drama that was unfolding in the estacion area, beside the river.

Local residents were joined by English expats in an effort to protect property from the rising floods.

There have been incredible stories of skin-of-the-teeth escapes from the rising waters. Tales of families waking in semi-darkness to find flood waters already one foot deep in the homes – and still rapidly climbing – before escaping by cutting their way through neighbour’s boundary fences as their normal means of exit was blocked.

HOPE AMID CRISIS: Despite widespread destruction locals worked closely together
HOPE AMID CRISIS: Despite widespread destruction locals worked closely together

In Jimera a house owned by an English family was flooded to a depth of five feet and a photograph of the submerged property became an iconic image of the flooding, and featured widely in the Spanish media.

The affected family – and others from Cortes – were offered accommodation for the remainder of their festive break by another British family located on higher ground in the village.

Cars and livestock were washed away as the rapid speed of the river rising caught everyone out.

Roads were cut off around the region and downriver at Estacion de Cortes hotel owners Bill and Maxine Findlay, who’ve only recently taken over the Hotel El Gecko, could only watch as the river level kept rising and destroyed three of their bedrooms.

Despite the devastation there has been much banter about renaming the hotel the Harbour Lights and offering mooring rights and Jacques Cousteau-themed rooms. As Bill said: “If you didn’t laugh you’d cry.”

They have been overwhelmed at how supportive their new neighbours have been in their time of need.

Since Christmas the rain has continued to beat down mercilessly and the level of the River Guadiaro has remained higher than normal.

The knock on effect of the heavy rains is that for the first time in years a weak dam in Montejaque is holding back millions of gallons of water that are not normally there.

There are fears that if the dam were to be breached, the rush of water, which ultimately feeds into the River Guadiaro, would cause a major disaster.

However, residents and businesses in the Guadiaro Valley are positive people and they don’t dwell on disasters: they just get on and start again.

Already fundraising events are being planned to help support those in need. Additionally everyone is working hard to encourage visitors back to this stunning part of southern Spain.

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