Storm Filomena grips Spain with no quick respite in sight

Almost two days after Storm Filomena battered central and eastern Spain depositing around half a metres of snow after almost 30 hours of continuous snowfall, the country is still struggling to return to normality.

Schools in the capital Madrid, which remains one of the regions worst affected by the snow, will remain closed until Tuesday, with the city’s Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida saying in a TV interview that the closure could be extended, reports Xinhua news agency.

The high-speed train link between Madrid and Barcelona reopened at 2 p.m. on Monday.

Minister of Transport Jose Luis Abalos confirmed on Monday afternoon that two runways at Madrid’s Barajas Adolfo Suarez Airport were operating, with members of Spain’s Emergency Military Response Unit (UME) working with airport employees to clear other runways.

The Minister also explained that 8,000 of the 13,000 trucks that had been kept in holding areas since January 8 due to the snow have been able to continue their journeys and would help bring food supplies to the capital.

Madrid’s public transport system was operating at a level well below the norm on Monday, with municipal buses unable to circulate on roads still covered by thick snow, while local train services are still affected.

Despite a 21 per cent increase in the number of people using the metro, Angel Garrido, who is responsible for transport at the Madrid regional government, acknowledged that “the frequency of the metro service is not what we would like because 98 trains have not been able to leave their depots”.

“We are not expecting a return to a certain normality until the end of the week,” he said, although people should “be able to use main roads in around 48 hours”.

The recovery from the worst snowfall in at least 50 years is expected to be hampered in the coming days by record low temperatures, which are expected to drop to 8 degrees Celsius below zero in Madrid and to minus 10 degrees in nearby Toledo.

Meanwhile, pavements all over Madrid remain covered in deep snow, which is now turning to ice.