Floods disappear in the Catalan Pyrenees but leave significant material damage and supply cuts
Many of the 300 people evacuated in the Val d’Aran County will have to spend a second night out of their homes to rule out any risk. The task of verifying that houses do not have structural damage is slow and the people’s return will be gradual, starting on Thursday. After rivers in the Western Catalan Pyrenees overflowed on Tuesday, by Wednesday water levels had considerably lowered showing the damage created by the floods. Three bridges had been destroyed and some road stretches had collapsed since the ground beneath them was swept away by the water. In addition, many houses and shops had been flooded. Water supply has been interrupted in some areas since some pipes broke. Partial power and gas supply interruptions also occurred but the service was almost entirely restored by Wednesday evening.
Vielha e Mijaran (ACN).- After rivers in the Western Catalan Pyrenees overflowed on Tuesday, by Wednesday water levels had considerably lowered showing the damage created by the floods. No victims or missing people have been reported, but some 300 people had to leave their homes in the Val d\u2019Aran County and will have to spend a second night out of their homes to rule out any risk. Many houses and shops were flooded, and two houses built on the edge of the water collapsed. The task of verifying that houses do not have structural damage is slow and the people\u2019s return will be gradual, starting on Thursday. In addition, water supply has been interrupted in some areas of Vielha and Arties since some pipes broke. Lorries with drinking water have been sent in but in the first few hours drinking water was supplied by helicopter. Furthermore, partial power and gas supply interruptions also occurred, although the service was almost entirely restored by Wednesday evening. The infrastructure damage is considerable: three bridges were destroyed and some road stretches collapsed since the ground beneath them was swept away by the water. There has been some controversy today between Val d\u2019Aran authorities and the Ebro Hydrographical Confederation (CHE), the authority managing the water flow of the Ebro and its tributary rivers and which is based in Zaragoza.
On Wednesday morning the sun shone and the water levels went down in the north-western Catalan Pyrenees. On Tuesday, the Counties of Pallars Sobirà, Alta Ribagorça, Pallar Jussà, but in particular, the Val d\u2019Aran, suffered severe floods, which left a lot of damage behind. The causes were heavy rain episodes combined with an exceptionally high volume of snow accumulated on the mountain peaks, which is now melting.
Now, it is time to verify the damage, restore basic supplies and start the reconstruction work. However, local authorities have also criticised the CHE for putting obstacles in front of the local projects to clean the riverbeds. The CHE is an independent body that manages the Ebro tributary waters and reservoirs in 8 Spanish Autonomous Communities (Catalonia, Valencian Country, Aragon, Navarra, La Rioja, Basque Country, Castilla-León and Cantabria). Val d\u2019Aran authorities believe that with cleaner riverbeds and banks, the damage might have been reduced, since fewer trees would have been carried away by the water. For instance, the Mayor of Vielha (Val d\u2019Aran\u2019s capital) told the press that the Town Hall received a \u20AC6,000 fine in 2011 from the CHE for cleaning the Garona riverbed of fallen trees and mud in the stretch passing through Vielha. The Val d\u2019Aran\u2019s Syndic, the main authority of the County\u2019s General Council, also stated that the CHE was putting too many obstacles in front of the projects to clean the rivers and this is a crucial task in mountain areas, particularly near bridges.
In fact, the wild waters carrying trees, branches and mud swept away ground beneath roads and even bridge supports, resulting in the collapse of road stretches and bridges. One of the affected roads is the C-28, between Garòs and Gessa. Technicians estimate that the reconstruction of only this stretch of road will cost more than \u20AC4 million. Other roads affected that still remained closed on Wednesday evening are the N-141 (between Bossòst and the French Border) and the N-230 (between Vielha and the French Border). In addition, the Vielha Tunnel, linking the Vall d\u2019Aran with the rest of Catalonia in the South, remains closed for heavy vehicles, although normal traffic has resumed for other vehicles.
The main concern is the village of Arties, where the 179 evacuated people will have to spend another night in a hotel. In addition, the water supply network of Arties and Salardú has been destroyed, as important pipes have been broken. The Catalan Civil Protection has set up a water depot with 13,000 litres and a fire-fighters\u2019 helicopter has brought a supply of drinking water bottles. The restoration of regular supplies in Arties will be slower than in the rest of the Val d\u2019Aran. In Vielha, water supply is almost restored, including to its hospital, where lorries had brought in 120,000 litres in order to guarantee the water supply to the medical centre. Furthermore, all the gas and power supplies in the area of Vielha have almost been restored, a task expected to be completed before the end of the day. Endesa \u2013 the main energy company in the area \u2013 has set up 12 additional generators, some of which were transported by Spanish Army helicopters. Phone lines \u2013 both land and mobile \u2013 were restored during the course of the day.