Snow-struck Madrid struggles with cleanup as record frost grips Spain

While Madrid regularly freezes in the winter, residents were unprepared for the scale of the storm

  
Members of Spain's military unit (UME) shovel snow to open a pass next to cars accumulated on M-40 highway after heavy snowfall in Madrid, Spain January 11, 2021.

Members of Spain's military unit (UME) shovel snow to open a pass next to cars accumulated on M-40 highway after heavy snowfall in Madrid, Spain January 11, 2021.

Marco Trujillo

MADRID - Authorities struggled to clear ice and fallen trees from the streets of Madrid on Tuesday, and temperatures in parts of Spain hit record lows after a snowstorm wrought havoc across the country at the weekend.

Only the occasional police car or taxi braved the roads in the city centre, while just 28 of Madrid's more than 200 bus lines were operational, drawing criticism from some residents.

"You in Madrid are not ready for this," said Demetrio, a Ukrainian living in Madrid, who did not give his last name. "If there is snow, it should be cleaned up the next day."

The regional environment department said some 150,000 trees in the city's streets were felled by Storm Filomena which dumped 50 cm of snow on the capital, cutting supply lines and transport connections and leaving some supermarket shelves bare on Monday. 

While Madrid regularly freezes in the winter, residents were unprepared for the scale of the storm.

"At my home pipes are frozen so we don't have water ... it's crazy," said 29-year-old media worker Amaia Huerta.

By Monday evening, intercity train services had resumed and Barajas airport had almost returned to capacity. Supermarket chain Dia tweeted on Tuesday that access to its warehouses had been restored and it was working to restock its shops.

But as the snow turned to ice amid temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius overnight, emergency services warned of a spike in injuries from falls.

A spokesman for the Gregorio Maranon hospital, one of Madrid's largest, said 37% of patients admitted to the emergency room in the past 24 hours had suffered trauma injuries, compared with an average of 12%-15%.

Outside Madrid, temperatures fell even further during the night, with Spain's lowest, -25.4C, registered in the province of Teruel to the east, a local record.

"This may be one of the coldest nights in our country in many decades," state weather agency AEMET said.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo, Belén Carre?o, Elena Rodriguez, Guillermo Rodriguez; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Mike Collett-White) ((Nathan.Allen@thomsonreuters.com;))

More From Global