Was damage worsened by riverbed construction?
SCENES of devastation likened to a Third World country and 70 million euros of damage are the results of last week’s heavy rains in Almuñecar.
Bridges collapsed and cars were washed into the sea as 180 litres of water fell on the town in just a few hours.
The Verde and Seco rivers burst their banks, causing extensive flood damage in nearby homes and businesses.
In tragic scenes, the floods cost the live of one man in the town as a German national, 43, died after drowning in two metres of water in the garage of his house.
As central government promises emergency aid to help with the 70-million euro clean up operation, environmentalists claim the flood damage was worsened by the town’s construction boom.
“With its anything goes mentality, the town hall of Almuñecar has allowed for construction in areas prone to flooding. Riverbeds have become dumping grounds for rubble from the rampant building currently going on in the town,” Fermín Tejero of environment group Ecologistas en Acccion said.
Expansion plans for the town could see an extra 35,000 new homes built in the next few years, some of which could be constructed in and around dry riverbeds.
The Junta de Andalucía, which has yet to give its go ahead to the urban growth plans, has warned of the continued risk of heavy flooding if homes are allowed to be built in the water sources.
And the Olive Press can reveal that police have opened an investigation into 12 cases of the “illegal occupation” of riverbeds or maritime public domain land in the town.
Chief among the concerns is an underground car park – allegedly built without the correct documentation – close to a natural water source.
First reports claimed the damage done by the heavy rains and subsequent flooding was six million euros.
However, experts have multiplied the figure, claiming the true cost could be as high as 70 million euros with the town’s transport infrastructure and tourist and agriculture industries practically “destroyed.”
“This year has been our annus horriblis,” Rafael Lamelas of the Costa Tropical Hotel Association said. “First we had the refuse collection strike and now this. Our industry has been destroyed.”
Several hotels were forced to close their doors, including the four-star Hotel Almuñecar Playa, which sent its occupants to hotels in Nerja, Estepona and Almería.
One eyewitness told the Olive Press how he feared for his life.
“I am from the north of Scotland but have never seen anything like it. I thought the flood water was going to wash me away.
“The devastation caused is like something from the Third World,” Stewart McCann said.
There were similar scenes throughout Andalucía, with flooding in many parts of the Costa del Sol and the Granada province.
It was a case of the show must go on in Padul (el Valle de Lecrín). Brave locals waded through flood water to continue with the organisation of the town’s annual feria and dozens of residents had to be evacuated from their homes after a local river burst its banks.
The Axarquia mountain range was put on red alert for flooding and landslides after 70 square litres of water fell in a single hour.