Catalonia begins to count the cost of Storm Gloria

Barcelona considers asking state to declare coast "disaster area," while minister says repairing damage will run into tens of millions

Field totally flooded after Storm Gloria in the Agrarian Park of Baix Llobregat, January 24, 2020 (by Àlex Recolons)
Field totally flooded after Storm Gloria in the Agrarian Park of Baix Llobregat, January 24, 2020 (by Àlex Recolons) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

January 24, 2020 12:06 PM

At the end of a week in which Catalonia was battered for days by Storm Gloria, the authorities began the process of picking up the pieces and assessing the damage after five days of strong winds, torrential rain, and snow.

Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, on Friday spoke about the devastation caused to the city's coastline and the "dramatic" loss of sand from its beaches, saying that the council is looking into asking the state authorities to declare the coastline a disaster area.

"We're looking into a decree asking the state to declare the coast a disaster area," she said, adding that "we not only have to apply for the state funds corresponding to a disaster area, but also work with other municipalities to take joint action to do things as well as we can."

Colau said the initial assessment of how much repairing the damage might cost is over 12 million euros. While the whole city was affected by the storm, by far the worst damage was on the coast, where some 30% of the sand on the city's beaches was washed away.

20 million to repair coastal infrastructure

Meanwhile, the territory and sustainability minister, Damià Calvet, put the cost of repairing the country's ports (all of them except Barcelona and Tarragona are run by the Catalan government), coastal areas and roads at some 20 million euros.

Speaking on Catalan radio on Friday, Calvet said it would cost six million euros to put right the damage to the ports, and another 15 million euros to replace sand on beaches and repair such things as seafront promenades and coastal roads.

The minister also said five million euros would have to be spent on rebuilding two bridges that carried the commuter rail line between the northern towns of Blanes and Malgrat, although he also said they would be rebuilt differently in case there is a repeat storm.    

Ebre Delta in urgent need

One of the areas of Catalonia that was hardest hit by the storm was the Ebre Delta wetland area in the south of the country, which saw thousands of hectares of rice fields swamped by seawater and the area's unique flora and fauna put at risk.

Among the "many actions" needed in the Delta, said Calvet, is repairing the area's perimeter canal, which could cost up to six million euros, installing pump systems in certain spots, at a cost of up to two million euros, with another million to repair the existing pumps.

Yet, the minister said the entire cost would not fall to the Catalan government, as the state authorities are also expected to help foot the bill. As for other repairs, Calvet said contingency funds would be used, while some existing projects may be postponed.

Minister defends management of reservoirs

Calvet also defended how the authorities managed the Sau and Susqueda reservoirs, which overflowed due to the huge quantity of water produced by the storm, saying that while the correct decisions were made, in the end the weather "overwhelmed" us.

However on Friday, the effects of the storm were on the wane, with the civil protection agency lifting the confinement restrictions placed on 29 towns in the Baix Ter area in the north, which had been threatened with floods from the Ter river bursting its banks.

On Friday morning, restrictions remained on only nine towns threatened by the flooding, with the agency advising people to remain on the upper floors of their homes, and that if they were forced to leave, to take medicines and personal documentation with them.

President declares period of mourning

Also on Friday, president Quim Torra signed a government decree establishing two days of mourning in to remember those who lost their lives in the storm. Friday and Saturday will see flags on official buildings flying at half mast, while official celebrations have been canceled.

In all, Storm Gloria cost the lives of four people in Catalonia, the last of which was a 52-year-old man in Calafat, in the south of the country, who was washed into the sea by high waves while fishing from some rocks.

Meanwhile on Thursday, rescue teams found the bodies of two people who had gone missing during the storm, one on a road in Jorba, in Anoia county, west of Barcelona, and one in a car in Cabacés, in the Priorat county, further to the south.

The other victim had been found on Wednesday, in the northern seaside town of Palafrugell, after the 69-year-old man was washed into the sea by high waves while he was trying to moor his boat in the town's port.