Two dead as torrential rains batter southeast Spain

Damaged cars are pictured after a street was flooded in Ontinyent on September 12, 2019 as torrential rains hit southeastern Spain overnight, sparking major flooding in the Valencia region and closing schools in a move affecting a quarter of a million children. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP)

MADRID, Spain (AFP) — Two people died when their car overturned as torrential rains and flooding hit southeastern Spain Thursday, sparking travel chaos and closing schools in a move affecting hundreds of thousands of children, officials said.

A 61-year-old man and his 51-year-old sister died when their vehicle was swept away as fast-moving waters swamped a road in Caudete, a municipality around 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of the city of Valencia, the emergency services said.

Officials had initially said the victims were a couple in their 70s but later corrected themselves.

In Albacete province, where Caudete is located, firefighters rescued 13 people who were trapped inside their cars or on the rooftops of their homes, the emergency services added.

The rain caused chaos on the roads, cutting public transport and promoting the Clariano river to burst its banks, flooding homes and causing the evacuation of surrounding areas, officials said.

Footage shared by the local AVAMET weather service showed cars being swept away in fast-flowing water in Moixent, and torrents of water engulfing the nearby town of Ontinyent, which borders the Clariano and saw its heaviest rainfall since records began in 1917, the agency said.

“Please maximize caution and avoid putting yourself in danger to take photos. Avoid driving,” Ontinyent town hall warned on Twitter.

With the region on red alert, regional authorities in Valencia said they had ordered the closure of schools in 84 municipalities, affecting more than 255,000 pupils.

Local authorities in the neighboring region of Murcia also ordered the closure of all schools on Thursday and Friday due to the heavy rain. A university was also closed.

Torrential rain and high winds were continuing to batter southern Valencia, northern Alicante and Murcia and would likely continue into Friday, the national AEMET weather service said.

© Agence France-Presse