Snowstorms that have caused chaos across much of Spain have claimed three lives, the interior minister told journalists Saturday.
“Even if, despite the extremely difficult weather conditions, the number of incidents is relatively limited, we have three deaths to mourn,” Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska told a news conference.
Heavy snow continued to fall across much of Spain on Friday, causing chaos on the roads, particularly in the center of the country, with the capital Madrid seeing its heaviest snowfall in 50 years.
By nightfall, the extreme weather brought by Storm Filomena had left many areas under a deep blanket of white in a rare bout of wintry weather not seen in decades to the Iberian peninsula.
As the snow showed no signs of letting up, Madrid’s Barajas airport halted all incoming and outgoing flights.
“For safety reasons, operations have been stopped at #Airport AS #Madrid-#Barajas, until visibility is improved. The work to clear the runways continues in order to resume operations as soon as possible #BorrascaFilomena,” it tweeted.
The blizzard also caused havoc on the roads, with nearly 400 affected across Spain and hundreds of vehicles stranded in the snow and ice.
The worst-hit regions were Castilla La Mancha, Valencia, and Madrid, with the capital seeing its heaviest snowfall since 1971, Spain’s public television said.
Hours of intense snow which was still falling by 2100 GMT cut off the city’s two main ringroads, the M30, and the M40, and a red alert was declared in the city center where police struggled to help people stranded in vehicles.
The transport authority said the snow had disrupted traffic on almost 400 main roads, where in many cases lorries and heavy goods vehicles were unable to pass, while many roads were only passable with snow chains.
On the secondary road network, more than 50 roads were impassable and around 170 roads required chains.
And hundreds of lorry drivers were held up across the country.
The AEMET weather agency described the situation as “exceptional and most likely historic.”